why do we need sleep?

Why Do We Need Sleep? (And More to the Point — How Do We Get It?)

The science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein once wrote, “Happiness consists of getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more.” At True Sports Physical Therapy, we agree that sleep is essential and can vastly improve your mood but feel that laughter, health, friends, family, good nutrition, and exercise should also be entered into the happiness equation!

Nevertheless, it is true that without adequate quality sleep, it is very difficult to manage the rest of your life.

Why Is Sleep Important?

Sleep is important because it is a time for the brain to:

  • Store new information
  • Form and maintain pathways that allow you to learn and create new memories
  • Rid itself of toxins that build up when you are awake

It is also a time for the body to:

  • Repair cells
  • Restore energy
  • Release hormones and proteins

How Does Lack of Sleep Affect the Body and Mind?

According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), sleep affects “almost every type of tissue in the body — from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance.” Physically, a chronic lack of sleep can increase the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. Emotionally, lack of sleep can exacerbate mental health problems.

We have all struggled to concentrate after a sleepless night or two, but for the 50-70 U.S. adults who have a sleep disorder, this perpetual fog is a way of life. Not only is it unhealthy for the individuals who suffer from insomnia or disturbed sleep, but it is also dangerous for others who may suffer as a result. For example, fatigued drivers are responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries each year in the United States, not to mention $12.5 billion in monetary losses, according to the NHTSA.

You may have read about various business executives who brag that they only need three or four hours of sleep a night (we’re looking at you, Jack Dorsey and Martha Stewart!), but they are outliers. Far more typical are Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, and Lebron James, all of whom value their eight hours of shut-eye per night. (LeBron even throws in a few daytime naps as well!)

How Many Hours of Sleep Should I Get Per Day?

These are the hours of sleep per day recommended for each age group by the CDC:

  • Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours of sleep
  • Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours of sleep
  • Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours of sleep
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours of sleep
  • School-aged children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours of sleep
  • Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours of sleep
  • Young adults (18 to 25 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
  • Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
  • Older adults (65 years or older): 7 to 8 hours of sleep

How Can I Fall Asleep Faster?

You may be saying to yourself, “That’s all very well; I know sleep is important, but what if I can’t get to sleep?” Well, first of all, know that you’re not alone. A study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine notes that 1 in 4 Americans develop insomnia each year. They would probably agree with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s complaint that “The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.”

Here are 11 suggestions to help you drift off into the Land of Nod:

1. Stick to a sleep schedule: binge sleeping on the weekend to try to catch up for sleep deprivation during the week does not work.

2. Lower the temperature in your bedroom. Optimum temperatures for sleeping differ for individuals, but doctors suggest 65 degrees as a good sleeping temperature.

3. Take a relaxing bath or shower before bedtime. Studies have shown that a warm bath or shower one or two hours before bedtime reduced the amount of time it took participants to fall asleep by about nine minutes.

4. Block out light in your bedroom (but expose your body to natural light in the daytime). Light from TVs, laptops, or phones emits light of a blue wavelength that can trick your brain into thinking it is daytime.

5. Try deep breathing or meditation exercises. These can slow your heart rate and calm your mind.

6. Cut out daytime naps (unless your name is LeBron!). Long or frequent naps (or naps too close to bedtime could prevent your body from feeling tired.

7. Don’t eat for three or four hours before you go to bed. Give your body time to digest while also avoiding possible heartburn that could keep you awake.

8. Practice writing in a journal before bed. Hopefully, that will clear your mind of worrying thoughts.

9. Listen to relaxation podcasts. (Here is a link to some suggestions.)

10. Limit caffeine in the evening hours. It reduces the time of deep (or slow-wave) sleep that your body needs to feel refreshed.

11. Exercise during the day (not right before bedtime). According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, “people who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night.”

True Sports Physical Therapy Can Help!

True Sports Physical Therapy specializes in sports rehabilitation and understands the unique needs of every athlete looking for the best care. Our focus on the principles of sports medicine and our years of rehabilitating patients experiencing a wide range of injuries and ailments allow us to offer a level of service unparalleled in Baltimore, Maryland, and the surrounding areas.

Whether your current goal is to get back to your sport or simply to go through your day without limitations, we are here to get you back to your team.

Make an appointment at one of our seven convenient locations in the Greater Baltimore area. Call (410) 514-3297

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