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Good Sleep for Good Health
Get the Rest You Need
Sometimes, the pace of modern life barely gives you time to stop and rest. It can make getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis seem like a dream.
But sleep is as important for good health as diet and exercise. Good sleep improves your brain performance, mood, and health.
Not getting enough quality sleep regularly raises the risk of many diseases and disorders. These range from heart disease and stroke to obesity and dementia.
There’s more to good sleep than just the hours spent in bed, says Dr. Marishka Brown, a sleep expert at NIH. “Healthy sleep encompasses three major things,” she explains. “One is how much sleep you get. Another is sleep quality—that you get uninterrupted and refreshing sleep. The last is a consistent sleep schedule.”
People who work the night shift or irregular schedules may find getting quality sleep extra challenging. And times of great stress—like the current pandemic—can disrupt our normal sleep routines. But there are many things you can do to improve your sleep.
Sleep for Repair
Why do we need to sleep? People often think that sleep is just “down time,” when a tired brain gets to rest, says Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, who studies sleep at the University of Rochester.
“But that’s wrong,” she says. While you sleep, your brain is working. For example, sleep helps prepare your brain to learn, remember, and create.
Nedergaard and her colleagues discovered that the brain has a drainage system that removes toxins during sleep.
“When we sleep, the brain totally changes function,” she explains. “It becomes almost like a kidney, removing waste from the system.”
Her team found in mice that the drainage system removes some of the proteins linked with Alzheimer’s disease. These toxins were removed twice as fast from the brain during sleep.
Everything from blood vessels to the immune system The system that protects your body from invading viruses, bacteria, and other microscopic threats. uses sleep as a time for repair, says Dr. Kenneth Wright, Jr., a sleep researcher at the University of Colorado.
“There are certain repair processes that occur in the body mostly, or most effectively, during sleep,” he explains. “If you don’t get enough sleep, those processes are going to be disturbed.”
Sleep Myths and Truths
How much sleep you need changes with age. Experts recommend school-age children get at least nine hours a night and teens get between eight and 10. Most adults need at least seven hours or more of sleep each night.
There are many misunderstandings about sleep. One is that adults need less sleep as they get older. This isn’t true. Older adults still need the same amount. But sleep quality can get worse as you age. Older adults are also more likely to take medications that interfere with sleep.
Another sleep myth is that you can “catch up” on your days off. Researchers are finding that this largely isn’t the case.
“If you have one bad night’s sleep and take a nap, or sleep longer the next night, that can benefit you,” says Wright. “But if you have a week’s worth of getting too little sleep, the weekend isn’t sufficient for you to catch up. That’s not a healthy behavior.”
In a recent study, Wright and his team looked at people with consistently deficient sleep. They compared them to sleep-deprived people who got to sleep in on the weekend.
Both groups of people gained weight with lack of sleep. Their bodies’ ability to control blood sugar levels also got worse. The weekend catch-up sleep didn’t help.
On the flip side, more sleep isn’t always better, says Brown. For adults, “if you’re sleeping more than nine hours a night and you still don’t feel refreshed, there may be some underlying medical issue,” she explains.
Some people have conditions that prevent them from getting enough quality sleep, no matter how hard they try. These problems are called sleep disorders.
The most common sleep disorder is insomnia. “Insomnia is when you have repeated difficulty getting to sleep and/or staying asleep,” says Brown. This happens despite having the time to sleep and a proper sleep environment. It can make you feel tired or unrested during the day.
Insomnia can be short-term, where people struggle to sleep for a few weeks or months. “Quite a few more people have been experiencing this during the pandemic,” Brown says. Long-term insomnia lasts for three months or longer.
Sleep apnea is another common sleep disorder. In sleep apnea, the upper airway becomes blocked during sleep. This reduces or stops airflow, which wakes people up during the night. The condition can be dangerous. If untreated, it may lead to other health problems.
If you regularly have problems sleeping, talk with your health care provider. They may have you keep a sleep diary to track your sleep for several weeks. They can also run tests, including sleep studies. These look for sleep disorders.
Getting Better Sleep
If you’re having trouble sleeping, hearing how important it is may be frustrating. But simple things can improve your odds of a good night’s sleep. See the Wise Choices box for tips to sleep better every day.
Treatments are available for many common sleep disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help many people with insomnia get better sleep. Medications can also help some people.
Many people with sleep apnea benefit from using a device called a CPAP machine. These machines keep the airway open so that you can breathe. Other treatments can include special mouthguards and lifestyle changes.
For everyone, “as best you can, try to make sleep a priority,” Brown says. “Sleep is not a throwaway thing—it’s a biological necessity.”
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Eight Health Benefits of Sleep
Jay Summer is a health content writer and editor. She holds a B.S. in psychology and master's degrees in writing and public policy.
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At Sleep Foundation, we personally test every product featured in our reviews and guides. This hands-on approach allows us to provide accurate, data-driven recommendations for mattresses, pillows, sheets, and other sleep essentials.
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Like eating nutritious food, drinking water, and exercising regularly, getting quality sleep is an important component of overall health. Although the exact reasons humans need to sleep remain unknown, sleep experts agree there are numerous benefits to consistently getting a full night’s rest. Most adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
While sleeping , the body performs a number of repairing and maintaining processes that affect nearly every part of the body. As a result, a good night’s sleep, or a lack of sleep, can impact the body both mentally and physically .
Sleep restores the body and improves energy levels , so waking up well-rested can have a positive impact on an individual’s mood Trusted Source UpToDate More than 2 million healthcare providers around the world choose UpToDate to help make appropriate care decisions and drive better health outcomes. UpToDate delivers evidence-based clinical decision support that is clear, actionable, and rich with real-world insights. View Source . In contrast, people who get inadequate sleep are at higher risk of experiencing mental distress Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. View Source . A chronic lack of sleep can lead to anxiety, depression, and irritability. However, developing a consistent sleep routine often resolves these symptoms.
Quality sleep promotes cardiac health. During sleep, heart rate slows down, and blood pressure decreases Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. View Source . This means that during sleep, the heart and vascular system are able to rest.
However, insufficient sleep is a risk factor for unwanted cardiovascular events. Lack of sleep causes blood pressure to remain high for an extended period of time, increasing the risk of heart disease , heart attack, and heart failure .
Regulated Blood Sugar
Sleep impacts the body’s relationship with the hormone insulin Trusted Source National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) The NHLBI is the nation's leader in the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders. View Source , which helps blood sugar, or glucose, enter the body’s cells . The cells then use glucose as energy. Sleeping seven hours or more each night helps ensure blood sugar is regulated in the body Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. View Source .
Adults who get less than seven hours of sleep at night are at increased risk for Type 2 diabetes. Without enough sleep, the body’s resistance to insulin increases because cells are not able to use insulin appropriately, which leads to too much sugar Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. View Source in the bloodstream.
Improved Mental Function
Sleep is believed to help with memory and cognitive thinking. Brain plasticity theory, a major theory on why humans sleep, posits that sleep is necessary so the brain can grow, reorganize, restructure, and make new neural connections Trusted Source National Center for Biotechnology Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source .
Updating these connections in the brain during sleep helps individuals learn new information and form memories. Quality sleep leads to improved concentration and better problem-solving and decision-making skills. In other words, a good night’s sleep can increase productivity.
A lack of sleep can have a negative impact on the ability to think clearly, form memories, learn well, and function optimally during the day. The ability to think quickly slows down after only a week of insufficient sleep Trusted Source Medscape Reference Medscape is on online destination for healthcare professionals worldwide, offering expert perspectives, drug and disease information, and professional education. View Source . Accuracy on tasks also decreases after a week of getting five hours of sleep or less each night. Sleep-deprived people perform poorly in activities that require quick responses and attention to multiple tasks, such as driving.
Insufficient sleep also impacts judgment. Less than five hours of sleep at night is correlated with riskier behavior. A sleep-deprived person is at higher risk of making poor decisions because they only have the ability to focus on a desired outcome, not the consequences.
Restored Immune System
Restorative theories of sleep suggest that sleep restores and repairs the body, making people feel refreshed in the morning. During sleep, the body produces growth hormones necessary for development in children and adolescents. These growth hormones also repair tissues and cells in people of all ages. The body also produces cytokines during sleep, which support the immune system in fighting infections Trusted Source National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) The NHLBI is the nation's leader in the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders. View Source .
Inadequate sleep can impact the body’s immune response to infection. Chronic sleep loss can make individuals more susceptible to common infections, such as a cold, while insufficient sleep over time can lead to a greater risk for immunodeficiency.
Getting appropriate sleep each night can help manage stress Trusted Source Medline Plus MedlinePlus is an online health information resource for patients and their families and friends. View Source . When people wake up refreshed, they avoid the stressors that come with functioning while sleep-deprived, such as poor performance, difficulty thinking clearly, and lack of energy. Quality sleep can also reduce anxiety, depression, and other mental health strains related to stress.
Sleep is a key element of athletic recovery Trusted Source UpToDate More than 2 million healthcare providers around the world choose UpToDate to help make appropriate care decisions and drive better health outcomes. UpToDate delivers evidence-based clinical decision support that is clear, actionable, and rich with real-world insights. View Source , and the body’s production of growth hormones is highest during sleep. These growth hormones are necessary for the repair of tissue and likely contribute to muscle growth. Most athletes require eight hours of sleep each night for restoration and to avoid overtraining and improve their performance.
Without sleep, athletes are at risk for lowered performance, fatigue, and changes in mood. Performing with less sleep also heightens the risk for injury Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source . The potential for injury rises even more when an athlete’s sleep time decreases and time spent training increases.
Maintaining Healthy Weight
Quality sleep, in addition to exercise, stress management, and healthy eating choices, is an important part Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. View Source of maintaining a healthy weight. During sleep, the body naturally produces more of an appetite suppressor, called leptin, while reducing production of the appetite stimulant ghrelin. On nights of too-little sleep, however, production of ghrelin increases and leptin decreases. As a result, a lack of sleep can lead to a greater feeling of hunger.
Tips for Getting Better Sleep
To get better sleep, and the many health benefits that come along with it, we take a look at the healthy practices around sleep, known as sleep hygiene. A number of lifestyle adjustments can help improve sleep quality.
Create a Consistent Sleep Schedule
A regular sleep and wake routine helps the body keep a consistent internal clock Trusted Source National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) The NHLBI is the nation's leader in the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders. View Source . Sleep experts recommend going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, including weekends.
Some adults like to nap during the day to avoid sleepiness. Keeping naps to about 20 minutes lessens fatigue without impacting sleep schedules. Naps that are too long can reduce alertness and defeat the purpose of napping. Individuals who choose to nap should avoid napping too late in the afternoon so that they can still fall asleep at their usual bedtime.
Make a Quality Sleep Environment
Although individual preferences may vary, most people sleep best in a dark, quiet, and cool bedroom. Too much light or noise at night can keep people awake or interrupt sleep. An eye mask or blackout curtains can eliminate unwanted light, and earplugs and noise machines can reduce distracting noises. Additionally, a fan can cool the room and serve as a noise machine.
Replacing old, worn, or uncomfortable mattresses and pillows with new and supportive ones can help improve sleep quality. The best mattresses and pillows for sleep depend on an individual’s preferred sleep positions and physical needs.
Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol Before Bedtime
Caffeine is a stimulant that provides a boost of energy and alertness Trusted Source Medline Plus MedlinePlus is an online health information resource for patients and their families and friends. View Source . When taken in the afternoon or evening, caffeine can make it difficult to fall asleep at night. The use of nicotine, found in cigarettes, in the evening is associated with more time spent awake at night. While some people drink alcohol before bedtime intending to get to sleep faster, alcohol is associated with lighter, lower quality sleep.
Exercise During the Day
Daytime exercise can make it easier to fall asleep Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. View Source , and daily exercise is associated with better sleep quality. Exercise may also help individuals fall asleep faster and increase the overall time spent sleeping. It can be beneficial to exercise outside, as sunlight exposure during the day also improves sleep. People should avoid exercising too late in the day so that their bodies can relax before bedtime.
Avoid Screens Before Bedtime
Setting electronic devices aside at least 30 minutes before bedtime can make it easier to fall asleep. Phones, tablets, computers, and other electronics with screens emit blue light, which can disrupt the body’s natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Instead, sleep experts advise developing a relaxing routine in the hour before bedtime. During this period of winding down, choose a restful activity such as reading or taking a warm bath.
Talking to a Doctor About Sleep
Those concerned about their sleep quality should consult with a health care provider. It may be helpful to keep a sleep diary to record sleep experiences and other symptoms. Discussing these symptoms with a doctor can identify potential causes for insufficient or interrupted sleep. Doctors can also talk through personalized strategies for improving sleep and refer individuals for additional testing as necessary.
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Other articles of interest, sleep hygiene, bedroom environment, sleep solutions, best mattresses, mattress sales.
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The Benefits of Sound Sleep
The need for sleep.
Benefits Of Sound Sleep
Medical research indicates people with sleep difficulties are at a 50% higher risk of developing and dying of heart disease. Undisturbed sleep protects your heart from dangerous overwork.
3. Brighter Outlook: Harvard Medical School reports that insomnia can lead to depression and anxiety while quality sleep can enhance a person’s well-being.
The Negative Impact Of Snoring On Sound Sleep
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It's true: The sound of nature helps us relax
The gentle burbling of a brook, or the sound of the wind in the trees can physically change our mind and bodily systems, helping us to relax. New research explains how, for the first time.
Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) found that playing 'natural sounds' affected the bodily systems that control the flight-or-fright and rest-digest autonomic nervous systems, with associated effects in the resting activity of the brain. While naturalistic sounds and 'green' environments have frequently been linked with promoting relaxation and wellbeing, until now there has been no scientific consensus as to how these effects come about. The study has been published in Scientific Reports .
The lead author, Dr Cassandra Gould van Praag said, "We are all familiar with the feeling of relaxation and 'switching-off' which comes from a walk in the countryside, and now we have evidence from the brain and the body which helps us understand this effect. This has been an exciting collaboration between artists and scientists, and it has produced results which may have a real-world impact, particularly for people who are experiencing high levels of stress."
In collaboration with audio visual artist Mark Ware, the team at BSMS conducted an experiment where participants listened to sounds recorded from natural and artificial environments, while their brain activity was measured in an MRI scanner, and their autonomic nervous system activity was monitored via minute changes in heart rate. The team found that activity in the default mode network of the brain (a collection of areas which are active when we are resting) was different depending on the sounds playing in the background:
When listening to natural sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an outward-directed focus of attention; when listening to artificial sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an inward-directed focus of attention, similar to states observed in anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. There was also an increase in rest-digest nervous system activity (associated with relaxation of the body) when listening to natural compared with artificial sounds, and better performance in an external attentional monitoring task.
Interestingly, the amount of change in nervous system activity was dependant on the participants' baseline state: Individuals who showed evidence of the greatest stress before starting the experiment showed the greatest bodily relaxation when listening to natural sounds, while those who were already relaxed in the brain scanner environment showed a slight increase in stress when listening to natural compared with artificial sounds.
The study of environmental exposure effects is of growing interest in physical and mental health settings, and greatly influences issues of public health and town planning. This research is first to present an integrated behavioural, physiological and brain exploration of this topic.
Artist Mark Ware commented, "Art-science collaborations can be problematic, often due to a lack of shared knowledge and language (scientific and artistic), but the team at BSMS has generously sought common ground, which has resulted in this exciting and successful outcome. We have plans to continue collaborating and I am keen to explore how the results of this work might be applied to the creation and understanding of time-based art (installations, multimedia performance, and film) for the benefit of people in terms of wellbeing and health."
- Mental Health
- Biochemistry Research
- Developmental Biology
- Natural Disasters
- Global Warming
- Environmental Issues
- Parasympathetic nervous system
- Nervous system
- Human brain
- Peripheral nervous system
- Multiple sclerosis
Materials provided by University of Sussex . Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Journal Reference :
- Cassandra D. Gould van Praag, Sarah N. Garfinkel, Oliver Sparasci, Alex Mees, Andrew O. Philippides, Mark Ware, Cristina Ottaviani, Hugo D. Critchley. Mind-wandering and alterations to default mode network connectivity when listening to naturalistic versus artificial sounds . Scientific Reports , 2017; 7: 45273 DOI: 10.1038/srep45273
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But sleep is as important for good health as diet and exercise. Good sleep improves your brain performance, mood, and health. Not getting enough quality sleep regularly raises the risk of many diseases and disorders. These range from heart disease and stroke to obesity and dementia.
Quality sleep promotes cardiac health. During sleep, heart rate slows down, and blood pressure decreases . This means that during sleep, the heart and vascular system are able to rest. However, insufficient sleep is a risk factor for unwanted cardiovascular events.
Benefits Of Sound Sleep. Here are some of far-reaching benefits of peaceful, restorative sleep: 1. Better Health: While you sleep, your brain diligently flushes out toxins which accumulate throughout the day, including proteins that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Blood pressure and heart rate decrease, thereby providing necessary rest to ...
Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) found that playing 'natural sounds' affected the bodily systems that control the flight-or-fright and rest-digest autonomic nervous systems,...