Time is an increasingly rare commodity nowadays. More often than not, it is sleep that suffers in our battle to fit everything into our lives – career, friends, exercise, fun.
Our obsession with our devices and smartphones is not helping. The vast majority of us now charge our phones by the side of our beds, further impinging on our time for sleep and jolting our brains back into work mode.
The temperature of the room is also important to good quality sleep, with the recommended temperature for a sound night of sleep somewhere between 60 and 75F.
The target for all of us, of course, is to get around 8 hours per night to be able to function properly the following day. If you wake up tired and feeling like you can’t wait to have a nap at some point in the day, then the likelihood is that you are not getting enough rest.
And if you sleep poorly on a regular basis it can lead to issues with heart disease, obesity and diabetes – and can even shorten your life expectancy.
Here are three other important ways that sleep affects our physical health.
1. Sleep increases fertility
When it comes to starting a family there are a number of factors that can affect your ability to procreate. One of them is sleep, and if your sleep is disrupted regularly (or you have a pattern of not getting enough sleep) it can reduce the release of the hormones necessary for reproduction. One of the key hormones is melatonin, which is integral to your sleep-wake cycle. If your levels of melatonin drop it can begin to impact on your fertility. Shift workers are well known to struggle with their melatonin levels because they work unusual patterns. If you are not getting good quality sleep, your levels will be lower than they should be, too, and that could impact on everything from embryo viability to your ability to fertilise eggs. While it may not be an issue for you yet, it could become one if you do decide you want to start a family.
2. Sleep boosts our immune system
Perhaps the biggest benefit of good sleep is its ability to maintain good levels of immunity in your body. This can impact everything from your ability to fight off the common cold, viruses – and even the flu that may be going around your workplace. It’s clear that your immune system will suffer if your sleep quality is poor or frequently disrupted; meaning that you are far more likely to catch bugs because your body simply isn’t strong enough to fight them off. As well as impacting your body’s immunity, lack of sleep can also mean you gain weight more quickly – and it goes without saying that this exposes you to a number of other health problems.
3. Sleep boosts our mental health and well-being
Our mental health is more important than it ever has been before, and sleep is one of the biggest factors influencing our ability to feel good about ourselves and positive about our lives. We all know the feeling of being down, tired and moody the day after a bad night of sleep, but if that becomes a chronic issue and your sleep debt builds up to the point of no return, then it can lead to issues such as depression anxiety. It is important to proactively address the problem before it reaches that point.
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