Are you getting sufficient sleep every night? How much sleep is actually “enough”? Sufficient and good-quality sleep habits are essential for optimum daily functioning. In addition, it is essential for maintaining our physical and mental health in the long term. However, it may be hard to gauge exactly what is wrong with our own sleep habits if we do not understand the basics of “appropriate” sleep patterns.
Beware if You’re Sleeping Less than 6 Hours
Many epidemiological studies and psychophysiological experiments have been conducted on sleep and health. According to these studies, poor sleep habits can impact daytime functioning and physical or mental health on a significant level. Specifically, repeated sleep deprivation (sleep debt) and poor physical or mental conditions caused by the mismatch between one’s biological clock and social hours (social jet lag), both have negative effects on quality of life. One famous experiment that examined the effects of sleep debt on daytime functioning is a study conducted by the Sleep and Time Biology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania. According to the study, when people’s nightly sleep habits are consistently 4 to 6 hours for at least two weeks, their brain functioning is the same as if they had stayed up all night for a day or two.
For many working people, 4 to 6 hours of sleep may be a regular occurrence. You convince yourself that while you’re a little sleepy, you’re not up all night. Subsequently, since you’re technically getting a decent amount of sleep, it shouldn’t affect your daily functioning. The truth, however, is that you are in a state of chronic sleep deprivation. As a result, your performance and health may be deteriorating without you even realizing it.
3 Ways to Get Good Quality Sleep
Have you ever wanted to resolve the problems with your sleep habits? Maybe you struggle to fall asleep every night even though you want to sleep. Maybe you “stock up” on sleep on the weekends, even though you know that’s unhealthy. In fact, there are 3 keys to obtaining good quality sleep and improving your sleep habits.
1. Get an Additional 20-30min of Sleep on Weekdays
Are you someone who struggles to get up on weekends, sleeping in 2 to 3 hours longer than a weekday? If so, it’s good to divide that extra sleep across the weekdays at about 20 to 30 minutes per day. Instead of trying to catch up on your sleep all on the weekend, avoid sleep debt and social jet lag through getting as much sleep as you can on a daily basis.
2. Wake Up at the Same Time Everyday
If you sleep more on the weekend compared to the weekdays, it may end up upsetting your internal clock. Instead of making up for lost sleep on the weekends, experts recommend that you wake up at the same time every morning, get some sunlight, and eat breakfast. Then, if you’re still groggy, take a short nap once you have already started your daily activities. This helps to adjust your internal clock, preventing social jet lag. Although, try to limit your naps to a length that won’t affect your nighttime sleep!
3. Spend More Time Outside
Most people today live under constant artificial lighting. This means that we are not receiving enough light during the day, but are receiving too much light at night.
According to a research group at the University of Colorado, the subjects were asked to go camping. During this, researchers measured the amount of light they received while camping, their sleep, and melatonin secretion. The results showed that compared to their usual life, there was a greater discrepancy between the amount of light received during the daytime and nighttime while camping. In addition, melatonin secretion in the brain started and ended earlier than usual, which moved up their sleep hours.
Natural light has the effect of reducing stress and fatigue by preventing social jet lag, thereby improving our sleep habits. Night owls can also greatly benefit from the effects that camping has on one’s internal clock. Therefore, camping can be highly effective for people who tend to stay up late before their day off and sleep in late the next day.
Healthy Sleep Habits for a Healthy Mind
A study of 1,000 adults in New Zealand found that the group with the greatest social jet lag had an increased BMI, as well as higher rates of obesity and metabolic syndrome. In addition, consistently poor sleep habits also have a connection to infertility and poor mental health.
Sleep has the important role of resting the body and mind, as well as regulating the functions of the brain and body. Women, in particular, have a more delicate biological structure than men due to constant changes caused by their menstrual cycle and biorhythms, so their sleep habits can be easily affected by slight changes in their routines or lifestyles.
Regardless of gender, it is obvious that sleep habits and sleep disorders have a negative impact on physical and mental health. It is essential to get a good night’s sleep to live a healthy life. If you are reading this and think you may not be getting enough sleep lately, take a moment to review your lifestyle habits. A small change in your consciousness is sure to protect your health in the long term.
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Komada, Y. (2020). Women’s Sleep and Mental Health. Journal of Japanese Society of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, 24(3), 275-278. doi: 10.18977/jspog.24.3_275
Mishima, K. (2016). Social Jet-lag and Related Health Risk. Nihon Naika Gakkai Zasshi 105(9), 1675-1681. doi: 10.2169/naika.105.1675