You're working out, you're eating nutritious foods—but how are your sleeping habits impacting your health? We reached out to John DeLucchi, an OrthoCarolina Clinic Manager and PT in Mooresville, to find out how much sleep you actually need in order to live a healthy lifestyle.
First Off: Why Does Sleep Even Matter?
"Appropriate rest is so important for our body's different systems," John explained. "It helps improve our cognition, strengthens our immune system, and helps our musculoskeletal system repair. Rest can help our nervous system to improve our memory, motor function, and learning. It is the foundation for recovery that we so often miss."
What Are The Benefits of Getting Enough Sleep?
"Getting the right amount of rest can help our performance on many different levels, including but not limited to improved energy, muscle recovery, and nervous and immune system function," John told us. "It can also aid in decreasing injury. Athletes that don’t get enough sleep are at greater risk for injury."
Those are definitely some good physical reasons to get into bed at a reasonable hour. What about emotional reasons—what mental and emotional benefits can come along with good sleep?
"Getting the right amount of rest can help with our learning, cognition, and overall mental health," John said. "Adequate rest will give us a heightened state of arousal, which helps us perform better throughout our day."
"Not getting enough sleep can increase injury risk, increase our likelihood of getting ill, and decrease our alertness throughout the day," John warned.
How Many Hours of Sleep Should You Aim to Get Per Night?
John told us that recommendations vary based on a variety of factors, from your age to the intensity (and amount) of physical activity you complete each day.
"As rule of thumb, anything more than seven hours is appropriate—but quality always trumps quantity," he explained. "Younger and more active individuals should get more quality sleep. For instance, an athletic teenager should get 9-10 hours of sleep."
We also wanted to know whether it mattered if you went to bed early, or if you slept in late. "There is an advantage to being an early bird," John said. "Getting to bed early and waking up early generally results in improved sleep quality and productivity during the day."
What Can We Do To Try to Get the Best Sleep Possible Each Night?
"We have to know our own patterns, and aim to cut the distractions and electronics," John said. "For instance, if you often wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing, place a notebook near your bed to write things down so you can complete the task and get back to sleep."
He also mentioned that it's important to get in the habit of slowing down before heading to bed, rather than trying to 'slam on the brakes' after an intense period of activity.
"We need to get in a ritual of 'cooling' our system down to prepare it for sleep, because it can be a challenge to be running at 100 mph then abruptly try to get to bed," John said.
And of course, cut out the screen time before hitting the hay. "Those who use electronic devices around the time they are trying to go to the sleep generally take longer to fall asleep than those that cut them out earlier," John explained. "We need to set clear boundaries on electronics. Either take them out of the bedroom, or make sure you have phone on silent mode."
And as important as our nighttime routine is for getting a good night's rest, we also need to think about our morning routine and how that impacts our day. "What we do when we wake up is very important. How we build or morning routines and rituals can help us win the day," John said. "So, make some time in the morning to sip some coffee, meditate, exercise, and build your day."
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