We spend around a third of our lives asleep. So just how beneficial is sleep to our health? And how can we get the most out of our sleep?
I'm sure a sleep scientist could write a book about it (and likely has done), but basically while we're asleep, our bodies are using not nearly as much of our metabolism as they do during the day. As such, this time is used to heal tissues and to remove metabolic wastes. This is important for all our body's systems, including our musculoskeletal system and our brains.
To get an idea of how important sleep is, we can look at the effects of lack of sleep, which has been shown to:
Impair skill performance
Impair cognitive function
Contribute to poor mood and increased stress
Worsen general health
Impair muscle performance and energy storage
Increase risk of injury in athletes
Increase risk of bone stress injuries
But how much sleep is good?
7-9 hours is recommended for most healthy adults, but 9-10 hours will help athletes get the most out of their bodies.
What's the best way to get more sleep? Sleeping longer at night, napping during the day, or improving sleep hygiene to fall asleep more easily?
While all these strategies are helpful, simply sleeping longer has been shown to have the most beneficial effect. So to get more of the benefits of sleep, just allow yourself more time to sleep. Simple really.
Wait, wait, you mentioned "sleep hygiene", what's that? Brushing your teeth in bed?
Sleep hygiene refers to strategies which help you to get to sleep more easily and to get better quality of sleep. They include:
Have a regular schedule for when you go to sleep and when you wake up
Don't display a clock in your bedroom
Avoid coffee, alcohol and nicotine for at least a few hours before bed
Avoid performing activities in bed such as watching TV, eating, working or reading
Keep daytime naps short and not in the late afternoon
Keep the room temperature in your bedroom one you find comfortable
Getting good quality and the right quantity of sleep will help your body perform better, and recover from exercise and injury more effectively.