Sleep is essential for our bodies and minds to function correctly. More than half of Canadians report cutting back on sleep when they are short of time, and one-third of Canadians get less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours per night. Yet the benefits of good sleep are real, both for our overall physical health, mental health, and general well-being. Here are the main reasons to adopt healthy sleep habits.
Strengthen our immune system
The immune system protects our bodies from infection and disease. To function properly, it needs sleep. Our organs, tissues, and cells repair and regenerate when we sleep. Sleep increases the performance of our immune system and, conversely, lack of sleep impairs its effectiveness. Sleep can increase our resistance to fighting certain infections and diseases.
For good cardiovascular health
Without a good night's rest, the heart and arteries are under constant pressure. Cardiovascular diseases (heart attack, high blood pressure or stroke) are more likely to occur. People who sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to have a cardiovascular disease associated with the hardening of the arteries.
For good mental health
The brain is particularly active during sleep. It uses this time to memorize and store information learned during the day. It thus helps to consolidate learning. It also takes advantage of this time to eliminate metabolic waste, the accumulation of which promotes the appearance of neurodegenerative diseases. The health of our brain is thus protected. A good night's sleep also allows us to remain attentive, motivated, concentrated, and it facilitates the learning of new information, making us more efficient at work or school.
To overcome depression
One of the main benefits of sleep is to improve our mood during the day. When we lack sleep, the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, increases, preventing us from sleeping well and quickly creating a vicious circle. We are more tired; we tend to ruminate and get depressed. On the other hand, when we sleep well, we feel good and manage our emotions better.
Healthy weight management
Sleeping helps regulate your metabolism by reducing the production of ghrelin, the hormone that promotes appetite. Blood sugar levels are also regulated, making us less likely to crave sweet foods. Good sleep, therefore, helps us avoid certain diseases linked to poor nutrition or becoming overweight, such as type 2 diabetes. And when we sleep well, we have more energy and motivation to engage in physical activities, which helps weight management and sleep.
Here are some tips to optimize your sleep
- Respect a regular schedule (go to bed and get up at the same time, including weekends)
- Create a sleep routine (turn off screens one hour before going to sleep, take a bath, drink herbal tea, read...)
- Create a good sleeping environment (a comfortable, cool, dark and quiet room)
- Listen to your body
Are you starting to blink, yawn, having heavy eyelids? Go to bed right away! But if once under the sheets, sleep doesn't come, it's better not to stay in the room fighting insomnia. Our brain will associate the bed with a stressful place. Get up and let go. Do a relaxing activity and wait patiently for the next sleep cycle to return.