New research shows quality of sleep may positively impact quality of life, and experts recommend getting enough rest in ample sleeping conditions for better life satisfaction.
A recent study published reveals that quality of sleep is a better indicator of quality of life than sleep duration or “social jetlag,” when biological sleep rhythms and socially directed sleep rhythms don’t align. The study looks at the effects of the three sleep variables on Czech study participants over time (between 2018 and 2020) and found quality of sleep was a bigger contributor to quality of life than the other variables.
Another study published in Sleep Science reported poor sleep quality is associated with impaired quality of life, especially if the participant reported depression or anxiety.
The benefits of getting enough quality sleep include reduced stress and improved mood, thinking more clearly, maintaining a healthy weight, getting sick less often, a lowered risk of developing serious health problems and getting along better with people.
The UK is a seriously sleep deprived nation. Over 7.5 million people (14%) sleep for less than five hours a night on average, which is seen as a dangerously low level and a threat to mental and physical health by medical professionals. Adults between the ages of 18 and 64 need at least seven hours of sleep each night, while adults 65 and older need seven to eight hours of sleep.
How To Improve Sleep Quality
Developing good sleeping habits, or sleep hygiene, will help get you into a routine of quality sleep:
- Going to sleep at the same time every day and waking up at the same time, even on the weekends.
- A dark, quiet, relaxed room at a comfortable temperature is essential for quality sleep.
- Exercise and being physically active during the day can help with falling asleep more easily at night. Working out helps decompress the mind and stabilise moods, which is an important process for naturally transitioning to sleep.
- Removing all electronics from the bedroom
- Avoiding caffeine, large meals, and alcohol before bedtime.
Why Improving Your Sleep Will Change Your Life
Along with exercise and a healthy diet, sleep is a fundamental pillar of good health. When we sleep well, we are happier, healthier, and get more out of each day.
- Improved Overall Health
Sleep is nature’s method of repairing the body, and proper sleep keeps us healthy, strong and resilient both physically and mentally. Countless studies have shown the long-term effects of sleep deprivation, which include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression, just to name a handful.
It is recommended that adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to remain healthy and function at their best. 7 to 8 hours allows approximately five sleep cycles to take place (the optimum amount you need to wake feeling rested and rejuvenated). Getting 6 hours of sleep or less is harmful to one’s immune system, reaction timing and mental health.
- Prevent Accidents
When running low on sleep, your reaction time decreases, and you have less attention to detail. Not sleeping properly can mean that both your body and brain don’t function properly the next day. This is really important if you have a big decision to make, are driving, or are operating heavy machinery, because sleep deprivation makes you more likely to make a mistake or have an accident. But getting plenty of sleep can help you to stay sharp and focused all day long.
- Pain Relief
Sleep is a vital part of healing, and missing out on precious sleep can lower your pain threshold. Those who suffer from pain, whether chronic or temporary, know it’s something that is never easy to deal with.
- Maintain Healthy Weight
When healthy sleep patterns become a habitual part of your lifestyle, weight loss will become easier. The body burns calories while it sleeps, which fosters the connection between sleep and weight loss.
What’s more, when you are sleep deprived the body starts to crave fatty or sugar-filled foods to give you an extra energy boost. Getting enough sleep will leave you more likely to make healthy food choices.
- Better Mental Health
Getting optimal sleep does wonders for our mood and improves our mental health. When we don’t sleep well, we are more emotionally vulnerable, and in a worse mood in general – our threshold for anger drops, anxiety increases, and we tend to socialise less. Getting enough sleep will not only improve our mood but maximise our energy.
- Sharpen Your Mind
Sleep clears the mind and repairs it. In fact, during REM sleep, our brain consolidates information and memories from the previous day, allowing us to make informed and rational decisions the next day.
If you wake up with brain fog and find yourself constantly visiting the coffee machine to get through your workday, try prioritising the quality and quantity of your sleep and see how things change.
- Boost Your Immunity
During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Cytokines help regulate immunity and inflammation and are needed to fight off infections in the body. So, when you’re sleep-deprived, you’re actually depriving your immune system of its ability to function. Missing out on sleep puts us at a higher risk of contracting infectious diseases.
- Keep Your Heart Healthy
A lack of sleep can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke. When you sleep, your heart rate and blood pressure naturally drop, to allow your heart time to rest and recover. Research has shown that if you’re not sleeping properly, your sympathetic nervous system remains stimulated at night. This is the system of your body responsible for the ‘fight-or-flight’ response – how your body reacts when it senses danger. This means your heart rate and blood pressure don’t go down at night if you’re awake, and your body releases stress hormones that keep you alert.
Poor sleep can disrupt your body’s ability to regulate your blood sugar. The levels of sugar in your blood can increase, which can cause diabetes.