Living a healthy lifestyle means staying consistent with healthy behaviors, including eating well, staying active, warding off stress when possible, and getting great sleep. If you ask any functional medicine provider what they consider the most impactful aspect out of all of these behaviors, the likely and unanimous answer would be sleep. The health benefits of sleep are numerous. Getting enough high-quality sleep every night supports the body in infinite ways and is one of the best promotors of longevity. Without consistent, good sleep, health can suffer over time. Prioritizing sleep hygiene can be the gateway to better health through its powerful effect on cellular health and its ability to support other healthy lifestyle habits.
Why should you prioritize sleep?
Sleep has a profound effect on health, both physically and mentally. Great sleep supports the immune system, memory and cognitive thinking, muscle recovery, mood, and even appetite. Sleep releases hormones that control how the body uses energy, also known as the metabolism. Cardiovascular health is improved with sleep, as heart rate and blood pressure decrease, which allows the vascular system in the body to rest. In fact, prolonged poor sleep can increase the risk for several health conditions including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, coronary heart diseases, and obesity.
There is also no denying the importance of sleep for mental health. Getting good sleep can help manage stress, reduce anxiety, and support healthy brain function.
A good night’s rest can be a gateway for healthy behaviors during the daytime. When the body is fully rested and recovered, it is able to produce enough energy needed throughout the day. Rest prepares the body not only for life’s demands, but also for better athletic performance, smarter nutritional choices, a more balanced mood, and stronger social connections.
Sleep and aging
“The quality of your sleep predicts the quality of your future years,” according to Dr. Jay Stevens. Researchers have inexplicitly linked good sleep to longevity primarily due to its impact on cellular health and the aging process. Sleep enables the body to repair and regenerate cells. In fact, research has indicated that sleep loss actually damages cells. Aging is a product of cellular dysfunction and damage that can be accelerated by consistent, poor sleep, along with other unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. Being healthy at a cellular level means having proper mitochondrial function, oxygen transport, cell membrane health, and the ability to clear cell waste. This puts sleep at the pinnacle of importance when it comes to decreasing the affect of aging on the body, more powerful than any age-reversing supplement or antiaging face cream on the market.
How to get great sleep
Getting great sleep starts with understanding how much sleep your body needs to function optimally. Typically, 7-8 hours is ideal for most people. Developing a sleep routine and preparing the environment around you for bedtime is essential in getting good sleep. Eliminate electronics 30-60 minutes before bedtime or use blue light-blocking glasses, sleep in a pitch dark, quiet room, and set the temperature for 68 degrees or lower. Avoiding caffeine or stimulants within 3 hours of bedtime also helps avoid sleep disturbances.
Sleep tracking with wearable devices can be beneficial in understanding the amount and quality of sleep you are getting and can help troubleshoot variables that may improve sleep. If you wake up feeling refreshed and have energy all day, you are likely getting high-quality sleep.
Health benefits of getting enough sleep are undeniable. It is the foundation of great health and must be prioritized to promote optimal short- and long-term health. However, sleep may not come easily for some people. Sleep therapists and sleep study centers may be helpful in getting to the root-cause of a sleep issue, along with considering supplements or temporary medication that can support better sleep. Talk with your provider about what might be right for you to improve sleep and overall health, or schedule a Meet & Greet with our team to get on a path to optimal health and longevity through a whole-person approach to care.