Sleep plays a vital role in having good health and well-being throughout your life.
Getting enough good quality sleep helps support your physical health, mental health, quality of life and safety. As an adult during sleep, your body undertakes a myriad of processes such as creating new pathways for learning and memory, repairing cells to help support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. For children and teens, sleep also supports growth and development.
Healthy Sleep Habits
Maintaining healthy sleep habits also affects neurobehavioral performance. Studies have also shown that sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on mood and cognitive functioning such as
Executive attention or the ability to regulate our responses,
And creative thinking patterns
In one study performed, participants were asked to sleep for 8 hours, 6 hours and 4 hours, for 14 consecutive days. The groups who were restricted to 4 and 6 hours per night had significant and cumulative deficits in cognitive performance on all tasks in comparison to the 8-hour group
How Insufficient Sleep Affects the Body
In addition to the effect on brain function, sleep is essential to maintaining the functionality of many other body systems. Sleep deprivation may result in a decrease of overall immunity, increased systemic inflammation, and regulatory changes in several hormones. Clinically, sleep-deprived persons are also at a higher risk of developing
Epidemiology based research also shows links between reduced sleep and increased mortality.
Insufficient sleep is a global problem that is becoming increasingly more common today. This may be linked to an overall increase in longer working hours and extended work shifts. This is a global trend, which has caused large economic and social shifts. Insufficient sleep is reported amongst 23% of individuals in Japan, 12% in Sweden and 11% in the US. Another consideration is the increase in mobile phone/tablet use during evening hours. There are a few different ways evening phone usage can affect sleep, including exposure to blue light, mental arousal, or sleep displacement due to wanting to watch “just one more episode”.
What a Healthy Sleep Cycle Looks Like
Given the negative consequences of having poor sleep habits, it's important to know what a healthy sleep cycle looks like and to try to implement it. In essence, for adults it’s recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, for teenagers it's 8-10 hours per night and for children it’s 9-11 hours. To help achieve this, reduce exposure to artificial light (including that from a computer or phone), reduce caffeine intake (especially in the afternoon and evening), increase physical activity, and for children, try to implement a consistent bedtime routine.
The Best Sleeping Position
When it comes to the best sleeping position, this largely depends on what feels comfortable for you. Side sleeping is the most favoured position. This position allows you to keep good spinal posture, which may result in reduced low back, trunk, and neck pain. If you notice your hips and knees are a bit sore, try putting a folded blanket or a pillow in-between your knees while you sleep to relieve some of the pressure. Of course, sometimes it isn’t easy to change a habit, such as your sleeping position or posture. Thus, it will take some time.
If you are prone to sleep apnea or snoring, try to avoid lying face up as gravity increases the tendency for your jaw, tongue, and soft palate to drop back towards your throat, narrowing your airways. However, lying on your back is recommended as a form of relief for people who suffer from acid reflux.
Although sleeping on your stomach may be slightly better given it removes the gravity issue, it does not solve the issue because the pillow may partially obstruct your airways. Turning your neck to the side will stop this obstruction, however this may add excess strain to the soft tissue structures and joints of your neck, causing discomfort.
Chiropractic Sleep Advice
If you are finding it increasingly difficult to get good quality sleep and you think your pillow or sleeping posture is part of the problem, then it may be worthwhile seeking the advice of a chiropractor or your preferred practitioner. Here at Balanced Body Chiropractic, we stock a select number of pillows that we believe promote good overall spinal posture regardless of your preferred sleeping posture, which may help with a more restful sleep. If you are noticing aches and pains when trying to sleep then feel free to seek care with one of our practitioners as natural pain relief can positively affect your sleep. Given we all spend a lot of time sleeping (or trying to!), we should ensure that it is as relaxing and restful as possible.
Ensuring you get good quality sleep is paramount to your overall health. Performing regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, reducing your exposure to artificial light sources and giving yourself time to wind down and relax in the evening are all good ways to try and optimize your sleep, which will promote your overall health and well-being.
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