Sleep is a vitally important physiological function, if we spend a long time without sleep, our brain begins to function poorly: all our cognitive functions, as well as memory and our mood, are altered by lack of sleep. If the time without sleep exceeds several days, we can suffer hallucinations and the different systems and organs of our body can stop working properly.
While we sleep, the body performs different important tasks for the proper functioning of the organism, such as tissue repair, the creation of cells of the immune system and the elaboration of our memories… Etc. In short, it prepares the body to face the next day with vitality.
However, despite the importance of good sleep, we are not yet making it a priority. As evidenced by the fact that more than half of the adult population has problems falling asleep or sleeping the necessary hours.
Maintaining good sleep hygiene is essential for our physical and mental health.; however, getting enough sleep and achieving good quality sleep are sometimes difficult tasks with the pace and habits of modern life. In this article we help you improve the quality of your sleep, explaining the importance of sleeping well and listing the healthiest sleep patterns and routines.
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The importance of good sleep for health
Sleeping is a vital function, if we spend more than 11 days without falling asleep, we die. Our body recovers energy levels, regenerates the cells and tissues of our body and prepares itself mentally and physically to face the next day while we sleep. Therefore, you cannot enjoy good physical and mental health if you do not have quality sleep.
If we do not sleep enough hours to perform all these tasks, or if our sleep is never completely deep and the brain does not manage to enter the state of relaxation, the body can experience different health problems. The alterations in our body appear the same day that we do not sleep enough hours: we have a harder time concentrating, controlling our impulses or carrying out heavy tasks, we show tiredness and irritability.
And with the time, the longer the lack of sleep lasts, the health problems worsen, all the systems of our body are affected, producing both physical and psychological problems, the risk of depression increases and in the long run we can suffer hallucinations and enter psychotic states. Lack of sleep after a while is disabling.
In addition, poor sleep quality can be a risk factor when it comes to developing different pathologies such as: cardiovascular diseases, overweight, type 2 diabetes and some mood disorders, the correlation between poor sleep and the appearance of of anxiety and depression. In addition, not getting enough sleep can affect the health of our bones in the long run, and increase the risk of suffering from different types of cancer.
As we can see, lack of sleep can affect us in the short term by altering our mood. But in the long run it can have serious consequences for our health, including an increase in the mortality rate derived from the risk of suffering from different pathologies. Therefore, it is crucial for our mental and physical health that we get enough sleep and that we do our best to adopt healthy sleep habits and maintain proper sleep hygiene.
- We recommend you read: “The 10 consequences of lack of sleep on our health (physical and emotional)”
How many hours of sleep are necessary?
One of the most frequent and most essential questions when we talk about sleep quality is: how many hours do we have to sleep? If we do not sleep enough hours per schedule, our sleep quality will be poor and it does not matter to apply other habits and guidelines that help us sleep better. Although, popular knowledge establishes as eight, the hours necessary to face the next day with vitality.
This response is very variable and depends on each one, in addition to other factors such as the hours of light and the activity that we have carried out during the day. Some people will be fine sleeping 6 hours, while others will need more than 8 to recover from the day. Although no one knows better than oneself how many hours of sleep it works properly, the WHO establishes ranges of recommended hours of sleep depending on the demographic group.
According to the WHO, adults should sleep between 7 and 9 hours every day, although as we have said, this can vary depending on the person and the activity they have. Teenagers (those between the ages of 10 and 17) should get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each day. Children ages 5 to 10 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night to help with their mental and physical development. From birth to 3 years, it is the most hours of sleep needed for proper development, babies should sleep between 16 and 18 hours every day. For children aged 3 to 5 years, the range of sleep hours is between 11 to 12 hours.
To start getting enough sleep and avoid the health problems that can result from lack of sleep, each member of the family should stick to their individual sleep hours. Once you get enough sleep, the following habits and guidelines for better sleep will be much more effective.
Sleep hygiene: what habits will help us sleep longer and better?
Getting enough sleep is essential to stay healthy, once the hours of sleep are respected, there are many habits that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep all night. Below we list the most effective mentioned by health professionals.
1. Respect sleep schedules
Getting the body used to regular wake-up and bedtimes improves sleep hygiene. Our body has to get used to day-to-day routines, in order to better regulate our circadian rhythms. When we have consistent schedules each day, it’s easier to fall asleep, and when we do sleep, the quality is better. If, for example, we sleep more on weekends than during the work week, our body has a hard time adapting and our sleep patterns will not be consistent.
2. Control naps
Naps, if used correctly, are a good tool: they can help you catch up on lost sleep. But, they must follow some guidelines: naps should not be taken in the late afternoon, and they should not exceed 30 minutes in length.
3. Practice sport moderately
Performing any type of physical activity during the day helps us sleep better, since we are tired and that makes it easier for us to fall asleep more effectively. However, if we have trouble falling asleep, it is better to avoid doing high-intensity sports in the late afternoonsince the secreted hormones can interfere with the rhythm of sleep.
4. Do not go to sleep with your mobile
Different studies have shown that the use of mobile phones, as well as other electronic devices before going to sleep, are fatal to sleep. The quality of our sleep is significantly affected if we use laptops, tablets and mobile phones in bed. These devices emit blue light, which makes our brain believe that it is daytime, thus interfering with the natural processes that help us fall asleep.
5. Take care of the space where we sleep
The room where we sleep should not be too hot or too cold., and any noise must be cancelled, it is better not to fall asleep with the TV or choose a quiet room. It is very important that the room environment does not interfere in any way with our ability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night.
6. Avoid stimulants and toxins
Toxic substances such as alcohol and tobacco or stimulants such as caffeine interfere with our sleep. In the case of alcohol, although we think that we sleep better or for more hours, our body works poorly and all the processes that are carried out during sleep are not carried out correctly, so this sleep is not restful. In the case of caffeine, although its effects are different for each person, it is advisable not to abuse it, since it interferes with the substances that we secrete naturally. Some studies suggest that cigarette smoking could interfere with sleep quality.
7. Do not dine heavy
Avoid eating and drinking a lot before going to bed. Dinner should be light and ideally before 9:00 pm The consumption of food gives energy to our body, the more food, the more energy, so our body believes that we must be active, which makes it difficult to fall asleep. Drinking large amounts of water can cause us to get up several times over the course of the night to go to the bathroom.
8. Prepare to go to sleep
Finding an activity that relaxes us to go to sleep, in addition to improving our mood, can help us fall asleep. It is important to remember that watching a YouTube video on your mobile or any activity that involves the use of an electronic device is not relaxing, on the contrary. We can read or listen to soft music before going to sleep.
In addition, relaxing can help us if we wake up, if we are trying to sleep and we can’t, it is counterproductive to toss and turn in bed, it is better to get up and do something relaxing before trying to sleep again.