We spend at least a third of our lives asleep. Many view this daily rest as a necessary inconvenience, robbing us of hours that could be spent more productively than simply dreaming. Studies and research have demonstrated, however, that sleep is essential to physical and mental health.

How sleep impacts health.

A study by the Yale School of Medicine determined that too much or too little sleep can increase the odds of stroke and dementia.  The Centers for Disease Control notes that a lack of sleep is linked to chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to increased depression and anxiety, reduced concentration, and impaired decision-making skills.

Turns out the third of our lives we spend asleep make our waking lives more productive. Given the hectic challenge of balancing work, family, and social lives, many have difficulty achieving the quantity and quality of sleep they need. The National Council on Aging notes that over a third of adults get less than the 7 hours of sleep needed each day. Restorative sleep is one of the pillars of Lifestyle Medicine.

The health benefits of sleep.

The Cleveland Clinic notes that sleep is divided into different stages with unique characteristics. The rapid eye movement (REM) stage indicates a dreaming sleep, but even non-REM sleep is divided into three stages from light to deep sleep. People cycle through these four stages several times over the course of a night’s sleep.

The benefits of sleep include energy conservation, repair and healing from injuries, and restoration of mental functions. Sleeping gives both your body and brain a cellular rest and time to restore energy for the next day. This restoration includes the cognitive task of organizing events and cataloging memories. Key in this process is the regulation of cortisol, a hormone that contributes to emotional stability and resilience.

Tips for a restful sleep.

Clearly, reliable sleep is essential to long term well-being.  Here are a few suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control on how to make the most of your rest.

  • Have a place designed for sleep, with a supportive mattress and pillow, and sufficient coverings. Keep the space dark and cool.
  • Establish a consistent time for going to bed and waking up.
  • Start a sleep routine that begins with calm activities before you go to sleep. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, screens, or exercise right before bedtime.
  • Exercise and time spent outdoors during the day will help you sleep at night.

Restorative sleep is essential to long-term health. Prioritizing the quality of your sleep can help alleviate other physical conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and depression. If you are having problems getting a good night’s rest, or experience sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea, discuss them with your Kinwell clinician. “Both aerobic exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi) have been shown to be as effective as sleeping pills,” noted Dr. Kathleen Tonti-Horne from Kinwell’s Poulsbo clinic.

Kinwell’s behavioral health clinicians use CBTi techniques to establish healthy sleep routines. Make an appointment through your MyChart account or by calling 833-411-5469. New patients can schedule their first visit at Kinwellhealth.com.