We spend roughly a third of our life doing it. It is vitally important for health and healing, yet so many of us are not getting enough of it. Are you in this group of people? Are your children? Let’s take a look at how important the quantity and quality of consistently better sleep is for you.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
This could be a blog post of it’s own. I recently read a book entitled “Why We Sleep”, by Matthew Walker, PhD., in which he went into detail on many aspects of sleep, dreams, and why we need both. It’s a fascinating read if you want further detail on this subject. The most important reason for sleep is for our body to regenerate and heal. This is vital for all systems of your body, including your immune system. Have you ever noticed when you are sick all you want to do is sleep? This is because your body wants to focus all of it’s energy at getting you back to health.
How To Get Good Sleep, and What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough?
The amount of sleep we need can also drastically vary with age. Newborns can sleep 15-17 hours per day (on average), school age kids and teenagers somewhere between 9-12 hours, and adults 7-8 hours. As an adult, if you are getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night, you are significantly jeopardizing your health potential. Your cognitive function decreases (including memory), your immune system suffers severely, as does the overall health and functioning of every system in your body. The effects are far reaching. Think sleeping pills will help? Think again. The sleep you are getting while you take them is not the kind you need, and the health risks are enormous. One study showed that you increase your odds of death by over 3x just by taking one sleeping pill in a given year. Those odds continue to increase the more you take. Don’t play with fire, sleeping pills can be dangerous and addicting.
Do you have an athlete in your family? Lack of sleep can have a significant impact on them as well. One study showed the chances of getting injured while playing sports to be around 15% if your child gets roughly 9 hours of sleep. That chance increases to over 70% if they are only getting 6 hours of sleep. That is HUGE! Even getting 7 hours of sleep will still increase their chances of injury to 60%. Other studies have also shown a significant drop off in athletic performance if you are getting any less than 8 hours of sleep.
Sleep and Your Spine
We’ve talked about the importance of the quantity of sleep you get. 8+ hours a night is the target, but the quality of that sleep matters just as much. How you position yourself during that time can impact the health of your spine. For starters, sleeping on your stomach is bad. It puts a lot of strain on your spine, most notably your neck. Back sleeping is great, but most have a hard time doing so. That leaves side sleeping. The key to side sleeping to to be sure your neck is properly supported, and you have a pillow between your legs to keep your hips in proper alignment. By doing these two things, it is a perfectly good way to sleep.
In closing, I think we significantly underestimate the importance of sleep. You can take every other step towards keeping yourself healthy, including regular chiropractic check-ups, but if you are not sleeping well it is virtually all for not. It is that important!
Get into a routine at night:
Stay off your phone/tablet in the hours leading to bedtime.
Sleep in total darkness.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
These few tips will help you sleep well, so you can…
LIVE well. BE well.