Sleep often gets left at the wayside for play and sometimes work. But, it’s far more important to your health to ignore. Sleep keeps everything about your body—brain, immune system, muscles—functioning and in working order. Here are a few ways you can give your life an extra boost simply by getting seven hours of shut-eye.
Burst Through Your Fitness Goals
In 2011, the Standford University men’s varsity basketball team participated in a sleep study. These elite athletes, who followed a demanding training schedule, lengthened the time they spent asleep. Their three-point field goal and free throw percentages increased by just over nine percent while their sprint times went down by half a second. They also reported feeling happier, less tired, and more invigorated. Now, most of us aren’t elite athletes, but if you’re trying to shave seconds off your run, or burn off extra fat, sleep can help.
It’s also while you sleep that the body repairs itself from the damage of hard workouts and injuries. Keep in mind that lack of sleep, less than seven hours, can do the opposite—slow down recovery, reflexes, and muddle your thinking.
Leave Sick Days Behind
Do you hate getting a cold? Then go to sleep. The immune system recharges itself and distributes white blood cells throughout the body while you’re unconscious. If you’re sick, get extra sleep so your body has all the time it needs to repair and fight off infection.
Improve Your Relationships
If you find yourself fighting with your partner, parents, or co-workers, sleep can help. During sleep deprivation, that’s anytime you get less than seven hours of sleep, the brain’s emotional center becomes overstimulated by negative thoughts and emotions. Simultaneously, activity in the logic center goes way down. Consequently, you’re more likely to snap, which can get in the way both at home and in the workplace.
Clear Your Head
Mental health is a growing issue. Lack of sleep leads to increased irritability, sadness, and anger while amplifying the effects of anxiety and depression. Part of that goes back to the same emotional control that helps relationships, but the brain also cleanses itself while you sleep, which keeps messages flowing smoothly.
Commit to More (and Better) Sleep
We’ve gone over a few ways sleep can give you a boost. But sometimes, your sleep habits need a boost too. Your sleep cycle alters based on your habits and behaviors so the power to go from four hours to seven is firmly within your reach.
- Leave Time for 7 Hours: You need at least seven hours, though some people need up to nine. To get all that time in, pick a bedtime and go with it. Consistency is key. Your brain will automatically release sleep hormones at the right time when it knows when your right time is. So tell it. Every day.
- Make Your Routine Simple: You may have thought you outgrew a bedtime routine, but you never will because the human body responds so well to predictability. Develop a nighttime routine that helps you relax so you can’t wait to hit your mattress once bedtime rolls around.
- Head to the Mountains: …or at the very least the outdoors. You need sun exposure to keep your body in sync with the Earth’s day-night pattern. Sunlight keeps sleep hormones at bay during the day so they’re prepped for release in the evening.
- Pick Up a Book: Yes, a real book, not an e-reader, laptop, or tablet, and skip television too. All of these devices emit a blue light that suppresses sleep hormones and keeps you awake. Two or three hours of screen-free time is enough to stay on track.
Sleep is nature’s rejuvenator, energy booster, and injury deterrent. Take advantage of everything it has to offer by making it a priority every day. You’ll notice a difference in only a few days of better, more restful sleep.