Impact of Quality Sleep on Health and Well-being

Good-quality sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy, productive, and low-stress lifestyle and forms an important part of our daily routine. As a vital component of life, healthy sleep is as essential to survival as eating, drinking, and breathing. It also allows us to consolidate our memories, regain our focus, undergo repair, process information, enhance productivity and work performance, regulate weight, and improve mental health. Yet very few of us actually prioritize sleep or pay attention to the phenomenon of sleep, despite sleeping for nearly a third of our entire lives.

Quality of sleep affects nearly every tissue and system in the body – from the heart, brain, and lungs to our metabolism, immune system, and mood. Lack of quality sleep – ‘sleep deprivation’ – like starvation is likely to damage our health and well-being. Quality of sleep relies on many factors, primary being health, security, the food you eat, physical fitness, and how you respond to stress and your environment.

Being able to prioritize sleep, create healthy sleeping patterns and manage sleep related disorders can have a powerful long-term impact on your well-being, and will prove to be equally beneficial to the society and the community in which you live.

So How Much Sleep is Optimal?

The need for sleep and sleep patterns change with age, but these can also vary significantly amongst people of the same age group. Although there are guidelines for sleep, there is no magical number for the ‘hours of sleep’ that works for everyone within the same age-group. Most adults require 7-9 uninterrupted hours of sleep at night, but after 60 years of age, sleep patterns tend to be shorter, lighter, and interspersed by multiple awakenings. 

Overall, people experience deterioration in the quality of sleep due to longer working hours, stress, and availability of round-the-clock entertainment. As per a global study conducted by Wakefield Research, more than 51% of adults have reported that they do not get enough sleep owing to myriad reasons.

To determine your sleep quality, evaluate whether you are waking up several times throughout the night. Also evaluate whether you still feel tired on waking up despite having slept for seven hours or more at a stretch, or if you might be experiencing breathing problems while sleeping. Even though it possible to incorporate better sleeping habits, if you are still experiencing symptoms related to poor sleep, it could be an indication of a sleep disorder. In such a situation, you should discuss with your doctor and explore various treatment options.

How Does Sleep Deprivation affect Mental Health?

Sleep and good health are undoubtedly proportionate to each other. Therefore, lack of good-quality sleep has an adverse impact on health, which in turn can make it difficult for you to sleep well. Disturbances, lethargy, tiredness, anxiety, distress, or depression could be some of the first signs of mental health problems or side effects of taking medication. Identifying and tackling sleep disorders as part of mental health treatment is hugely important and yet sadly, this aspect is often overlooked.

An analysis of 21 different studies revealed that people who suffer with insomnia are twice as likely to sink into depression over those who sleep well. Likewise, people with insomnia who have undergone cognitive development therapy (CBT) have shown significant improvement in terms of overcoming depression, anxiety, paranoia, and nightmares.

Tips for Improving Your Sleep Habits

Sleep is an essential part of daily routine. It plays a vital role in ensuring good health and well-being. How well you sleep can determine your physical, emotional, and mental well-being, and significantly improve the quality of life. Without adequate sleep you cannot form or maintain pathways to your brain that help you to remain alert, respond appropriately to stressors and feel positive. If you are sleep deprived, you may have trouble focussing, making decisions, solving problems, and keeping your emotions under control.

If you are experiencing trouble sleeping or are simply not getting enough quality sleep, the following tips could help improve the situation:

  1. Regular exercise – It can play a key role in improving your night’s sleep, and also in maintaining day-time energy levels. That being said, do try to avoid strenuous exercise close to bedtime.
  2. Nutritious diet – A high-nutrition diet and good eating habits can help you sleep better and feel energized throughout the day. We recommend avoiding large meals right before going to bed.
  3. Create a room for sleep – Avoid bright light and use a dimmer or night lamp. Also avoid loud noises, maintain a comfortable temperature in the room, and do not watch TV or work on a computer before going to bed.
  4. Stick to a schedule, even during the weekends – Try to settle into a routine and establish a bedtime pattern of getting up and going to bed at the same time each day. As far as possible, maintain a consistent daily schedule.
  5. Try to practice relaxation activities prior to bedtime – A warm bath, meditation, reading or another relaxation routine before settling down for the night could contribute towards improved sleep.
  6. Turn off your mobile devices – Blue light emitting from electrical devices can hinder your night’s sleep. If possible, switch off or stop using any mobile devices at least an hour before bed.
  7. Avoid stimulants like caffeine before bed – Stimulants like nicotine, coca cola, energy drinks, caffeine and alcoholic beverages tend to energize, and interfere with sleep. Hence it is very important to avoid consuming these two to four hours before going to bed.
  8. Don’t lie in bed awake – If you are unable to fall asleep, do something else, like listening to music or reading, until you are sufficiently exhausted.

Final Thoughts

Getting at least seven hours of quality sleep every night is proven to reduce the risk of disorders, such as chronic illness, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.

If you have tried some of these techniques and are still experiencing sleep issues, speak to your doctor or try seeking help from a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.