The Importance of Aiming for 7-9 Hours of Sleep Per Night

We all know that we should be aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but how many of us are making that happen? I am sure many of you do not think it’s even possible. If that’s you, you are not alone. A lot of people are surviving on 5-6 hours and feel just fine. But are you fine? I hate to break it to you, but lack of sleep will catch up with you one day.

Studies show that lack of sleep could have long-term detrimental effects on your brain, immune system, hormones, metabolism and many other vital bodily functions. One in seven Canadians over the age of 15, approximately 3.3 million people, struggle with getting enough sleep or staying asleep at night.(1) A whopping 80 percent of North Americans think that sleeping 7-9 hours per night can impact their success. It is no wonder that 75 percent of people experience daytime sleepiness and 34 percent of people say sleepiness interferes with their daytime activities.

There are so many reasons that sleep is important but above all else, it rebuilds, repairs and recharges your body. During sleep, your immune system is working hard to repair what it needs to while your brain recharges. Sleep deprivation, or lack of sleep, sets you up to getting sick in both mind and body.

Sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea are on the rise and negatively affect overall health. Sleep apnea is becoming more common and affects 30 percent of those over 60. It is characterized by the cessation of breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep, this reduces blood oxygen levels and can be very concerning if not addressed. Some clues to watch for: sleepiness, excessive snoring, poor attention, or waking up gasping for air. The effects of insufficient oxygen supply to the brain can cause issues later on like, early aging, cognitive decline, weight gain(2), diabetes and even increased blood pressure.

Other Symptoms of Sleep Deficit

  • Daytime fatigue
  • Poor memory and mental performance
  • Depression and apathy
  • Morning headaches, waking up feeling unrefreshed
  • Heart disease
  • Heartburn
  • The need to urinate in the middle of the night
  • Loud snoring
  • Diminished sex drive
  • Decreased exercise tolerance
  • More than five pounds of weight gain in the past year
  • The need for stimulant

The Impact Of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation confuses your circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake cycle) and negatively affects almost every aspect of your health. Most people are capable of functioning on 4-6 hours of sleep per night but chronic sleep deprivation will impact your adrenal glands the same as physical stress or chronic illness. This explains why continuous sleeplessness increases your risk for conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, hormone imbalances, weight gain, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Circadian Cycle

Lack of sleep may also contribute to a prediabetic state, this causes feeling hungry even if you just ate. Premature aging is also caused by sleep deprivation. Growth hormones are released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep. Lack of sleep interferes with the production of your growth hormones and speeds the aging process, but it doesn’t end there.

A system called the glymphatic system was recently discovered in the body. It is a cross between brain cells and the lymphatic system. Its role is to clear toxins out of the brain. The glymphatic system works predominantly while we sleep. Lack of sleep prevents our ability to clear toxins out of the brain, this greatly impacts our body’s ability to detoxify.(3)

Tips For Falling Asleep And Staying Asleep

Do The Following:

Leverage The Sun—Light plays a key role in regulating our daily circadian rhythm. Morning light signals your hypothalamus and all corresponding organs and glands to be alert and wake up. If you can get outside for at least 2 to 10 minutes every morning close to sunrise, this activity can help promote a healthy sleep-wake cycle. (4) Of course, for many of us living in North America, the winter months can be a challenge to get outside or we may not have many sunny days consistently. That is where the Verilux HappyLight Therapy Lamp can be extremely beneficial. The bright light from the HappyLight therapy lamp provides signals to the body to help you feel energized, focused, and revitalized. Check out the HappyLight Therapy Lamp HERE.

Maintain a healthy weight—Being overweight can increase the risk of sleep apnea, which will prevent a restful night’s sleep.

Exercise daily—Daily exercise has been shown to improve your chances of falling asleep quickly and sleeping soundly. Research shows that you get a night of better sleep with regular exercise. Try to exercise early in the day and avoid exercising within three hours of bedtime. Working out too late in the day can make it difficult for you to fall asleep because exercise is a stimulant.

Keep a schedule—Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This will train your body to sleep on a schedule. If you can maintain this schedule for three weeks, you’ll probably find yourself falling asleep faster and feeling more refreshed. To achieve this, however, you can’t sleep in on weekends or stay up too late, either. Keep in mind that the natural human biorhythm is to sleep between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Take power naps—If you have the opportunity, napping during the day (10-20 minutes) isn’t only an effective and refreshing alternative to caffeine, but it also promotes wellness and makes you more productive. Studies show that people who nap several times a week have a lower risk of dying from heart disease. Napping also improves memory, cognitive function and mood.

Make preparations for the next day—Before heading to bed, determine what you’d like to accomplish for the next day so you don’t have to think about it while trying to get to sleep.

Journaling—If you often lay in bed and can’t quiet your mind, it might be helpful to keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed. This allows your mind to rest and may even help create solutions in your sleep.

Create a bedtime routine—Create a nightly routine to tell your body that it’s time to sleep. Start about 30 minutes before you lay down to help release stressful thoughts. Your routine could include meditation, deep breathing, or reading. The key is to find something that makes you feel relaxed, then repeat it each night to help you release the day’s tensions. Try a warm bath with Epsom salts. Avoid watching TV or reading something too adventurous, though, as this will stimulate your brain and likely have the opposite effect, prompting you to stay up later.

Make your bedroom dark—As mentioned earlier, you need to produce the hormones serotonin and melatonin in order to sleep deeply. Since even a little bit of light will diminish their efficiency, sleep in a dark room, and don’t turn on the lights at any time during the night if you need to get up. Consider getting an eye mask to help you block out any light that might impede your sleep. Here is a super comfortable mask—the Sleep Master Sleep Mask HERE.

Listen to white noise or relaxing music—Some people find the sound of white noise, like a fan or sounds of nature to be helpful and soothing for sleep. Check out a high-quality one—White Noise Sound Machine HERE.

Mouth taping—Exactly what it sounds like! Mouth taping is the practice of taping one’s mouth when sleeping. It may seem a little strange in the beginning but with this technique, we can drive nose breathing instead of mouth breathing. Nose breathing helps the body achieve more of a relaxation response, which is the key to maintaining deep sleep and successfully progressing through the stages of the sleep cycle. Nose breathing can also help our body maintain homeostasis by balancing the autonomic nervous systems so we can wake up feeling strong and refreshed. Important to mention, using duct tape, packing tape, or any other adhesive that is not intended to work on the skin is not recommended. 

Weighted blanketsWeighted blankets are a type of at-home measure that can provide similar benefits to deep pressure therapy which is used to relax the nervous system. It models the experience of being held or hugged. More and more studies are coming out showing that this practice may help relieve the perception of pain, reduce symptoms of anxiety, improve sleep quality and relieve symptoms of depression. Try it for yourself to see how you feel! When choosing a weighted blanket, it is suggested to find a snug size that is around 10 percent of your body weight. I have two weighted blanket recommendations a regular one and one to keep you cool! Hush Iced Blanket 2.0 and  The Hush Classic Blanket

Avoid The Following:

Avoid alcohol—That small glass of wine can actually make it more difficult for you to stay asleep. After an evening drink, you might fall asleep just fine but you will likely wake up in the middle of the night. This effect is caused by a rebound in blood sugar and withdrawal from the alcohol after it has been metabolized. Try avoiding alcohol before sleep and see if you sleep more soundly. For every drink you have, give your body at least an hour before trying to fall asleep. Keep in mind that alcohol will also keep you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep when the body does most of its healing.

Avoid caffeine after noon—Some people are caffeine-sensitive and can’t drink coffee, tea or any other caffeinated beverage up to six hours before bedtime. Some people just can’t metabolize caffeine efficiently. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try not to consume caffeine past noon.

Avoid before-bed snacks – Avoid grains and sugar before bed, as these foods will raise blood sugar and can negatively impact your sleep. If you have to snack, choose a high-protein option, such as a whey protein shake. This will provide L-tryptophan, needed to produce serotonin and melatonin, which actually help you sleep.

Remove electronics from your bedroom—Computers, mobile phones, tablets, even your alarm clock has electromagnetic fields that can interfere with your body’s recuperative abilities. If you read before bed, ensure you read a physical book as the light from your phone or tablet will stimulate your eyes and brain. If you do decide to use your phone or tablet, there are now some blue-light filters you can either download onto your device or purchase some blue-light filtering glasses that will ensure your sleep is not disturbed.

Ready for a good night’s rest? Off to bed you go!

References:

  1. (2005, November 16). http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/051116/dq051116a-eng.htm
  2. Sleep. (2016, April 13). https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/sleep-and-obesity/
  3. Brain may flush out toxins during sleep. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/brain-may-flush-out-toxins-during-sleep
  4. https://hubermanlab.com/the-science-of-vision-eye-health-and-seeing-better/