Let’s get real — with all the mixed ideas and attitudes about sleep, it can get really frustrating finding what to do if you’re having trouble sleeping. Luckily, we’ll tell you the truth. Keep reading to learn more about sleep’s importance, to have some of the myths about sleep debunked, and to get some tips on improving your sleep.
Check out these awesome tips for getting deep sleep so you can have a more productive day.
The importance of sleep
Everyone knows what it feels like to not get enough sleep. You feel tired, you can’t concentrate, and you may be a little bit moody. However, do you know how important getting regular good quality sleep is to your overall health?
How much sleep do you need?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the majority of individuals require a minimum amount of sleep to not be at higher risk for health problems, cognitive difficulties, and even mental health issues. How much sleep an individual needs depends mostly on age, as the body requires more sleep when it’s growing. The following is the recommended daily amount of sleep based on age:
- Newborn – 3 months: 14-17 hours
- 4 – 12 months: 12-16 hours, with a nap
- 12 months – 5 years: 10-14 hours, with a nap
- 6 – 12 years: 9-12 hours
- 13 – 18 years: 8-10 hours
- 18 or older: 7-9 hours
What are the stages of sleep?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, your body needs to go through the stages of sleep four to five times a night to rejuvenate and carry out vital functions. The four stages of sleep include:
- Stage 1 — light sleep
- Stage 2 — deeper sleep
- Stage 3 — deepest sleep
- REM stage — the dream stage: REM stands for rapid eye movement
Quality is also important
The Cleveland Clinic notes that not only is the amount of sleep you get important, but the quality of your sleep is also crucial. According to the Sleep Foundation, quality sleep is generally loosely defined by the following:
- Being capable of sleeping the amount recommended for your age group
- When you spend less than 30 minutes trying to fall asleep at night
- Waking up only once or not at all through the night
- If you do wake up, you only spend 20 minutes or less getting back to sleep
- When you wake up in the morning, you feel refreshed and recharged
Not getting enough quality sleep leads to grogginess, bad moods, difficulty concentrating (which can lead to a loss in productivity), and the associated risks of sleep deprivation.
Health problems caused by chronic sleep deprivation
According to the Cleveland Clinic, when you’ve been sleep deprived for long periods of time, it can lead to serious consequences for your health, including:
- Increased risk of high cholesterol
- Increased risk of high blood pressure
- Increased risk of type-2 diabetes
- More likely to get infections
- Higher sensitivity to pain
- May be more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease
- More likely to develop anxiety and depression
- More likely to have a heart attack
Check out these debunked sleep myths:
Is sleep debt a myth?
The answer to this question is complicated because sleep debt is very real. However, “debt” implies you can pay it back, which is where it gets complicated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when you’re not getting enough sleep, sleep debt is the amount of time you’re behind.
The idea behind sleep debt is that you can sleep to “pay down” the debt. However, a 2019 article published by Current Biology discusses how researchers found that sleep debt cannot be easily repaid. In their research, participants who would sleep in on the weekends to make up for the sleep lost during the week still ended up with detrimental effects on their bodies. Namely in the way the body uses insulin, weight issues resulting from increased nightly calories, and reduced energy.
Myth: Having digital devices in the bedroom is no big deal
According to the Sleep Foundation, most electronic devices emit a wavelength of light known as “blue light” that actively slows down our body's ability to make melatonin (the chemical released in the brain to tell you you’re sleepy). Blue light has also been shown to lessen the amount of time you spend in the slow-wave and rapid-eye-movement (REM) stages of sleep, and both of these stages are essential for optimal cognitive function.
This begs the question: is it bad to sleep with your phone nearby? Not only is your phone a distraction from sleep, but the blue light can actually interrupt your circadian rhythm, causing you to not get sound sleep once you’re asleep. If you must keep your phone in your bedroom, try not to use it before bed and check if your phone has a nighttime mode that eliminates the blue light. However, the Sleep Foundation recommends no electronic devices of any kind in people’s bedrooms.
Myth: Blue light isn’t that big of a deal
When devices are overused and/or used too close to bedtime, the blue light emitted from such devices has been shown to negatively affect the brain’s circadian rhythm (the body’s way of indicating when we should be active vs. asleep). According to the Mayo Clinic, blue light initially comes from the sun, subconsciously telling the body it’s time to be active. But with the increase in digital devices, artificial blue light has been created, and overuse can cause issues. For example, blue light can actually cause damage to the retinal cells in your eyes (over time) and could potentially increase your risk of macular degeneration (age-related degeneration that causes vision loss over time).
Too much blue light symptoms can include:
- Eye fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Eye damage
Myth: Snoring is no big deal
While this can be true if you only snore occasionally, according to the Cleveland Clinic, snoring can also be a symptom of sleep apnea (a serious sleep disorder), and long-term snoring can increase your risk for several serious health problems such as:
- Hypoxia (low blood/oxygen levels)
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Type-2 diabetes
- Trouble with concentration
Myth: Some people can adjust to getting five hours of sleep a night
Five hours of sleep isn’t enough for anyone. According to the CDC, adults who sleep less than seven hours a night have an increased risk of heart attack, asthma, depression, high blood pressure, obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
To get a better idea of how well you’re sleeping, check out these awesome sleep tracking devices!
Tips for creating the ideal sleep environment
Getting sound sleep can be easier said than done. One of the best things you can do to ensure restful sleep is to create the ideal environment for rest and rejuvenation by doing the following:
Ensure your bedroom and your bed are comfortable
According to the Sleep Foundation, a majority of studies have shown a warm sleep environment to negatively affect the sleep stages, causing restlessness and fatigue. This leads the majority of doctors to recommend keeping the bedroom somewhere between 60-68 degrees for the best sleep. This can be difficult in the summer months but can still be achieved by installing a window A/C, getting a fan, and investing in bedding made of lightweight natural fibers.
For soft, comfortable, and breathable bedding, check out these bamboo sheets!
Develop a sleep routine
According to the Sleep Foundation, a term used to refer to an individual’s habits and environment regarding sleep is known as “sleep hygiene.” One of the most important things we can do for good sleep hygiene is to encourage ourselves to stay on a set sleep schedule that includes going to sleep and getting up at roughly the same times every day.
Some other things that encourage good sleep hygiene include:
- Not napping too much — napping for long periods of time or too close to bedtime can greatly disrupt your sleep schedule
- Create a bedtime routine to tell your brain, “it’s time for bed”
- Include “wind down” time in your routine
- Shut down all electronics 30-60 minutes before bed
- Dim the lighting
- Try not to stress — sleep is important, but stressing about it isn’t helpful
- Get at least some exercise every day
- Avoid smoking and alcohol (in general, but especially close to bedtime)
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoons and evenings
- Don’t eat a large meal too close to bedtime
- Avoid using your bed for activities outside of sleeping and romantic encounters
Work for peace of mind before sleep
Make the room your idea of “cozy” with the right ambient noise, textures, and smells. According to the Sleep Foundation, lavender essential oils have been shown in multiple studies to be beneficial for promoting a restful night's sleep. If you don’t enjoy the smell of lavender, the Sleep Foundation also recommends bergamot, chamomile, cedarwood, or clary sage.
Making sleep a priority is hard. But if you can literally sleep your way to better health, isn’t that a pretty awesome thing to be striving for?
Citations:Best Temperature for Sleep. (2023).
Depner, C. (2019). Ad libitum Weekend Recovery Sleep Fails to Prevent Metabolic Dysregulation during a Repeating Pattern of Insufficient Sleep and Weekend Recovery Sleep.
How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health?. (2021).
How Electronics Affect Sleep. (2022).
How To Determine Poor Sleep Quality. (2023).
Protect your eyes from harmful light. (2020).
Sleep Debt. (2020).
Sleep Deprivation. (2022).
The Best Essential Oils for Sleep. (2022).