Everyone knows that you should be getting 8 hours of sleep each night. Due to life, however, that’s not always possible, but another study has come out stating exactly how bad it is for you to get under 6 hours of sleep a night. The effects of sleep deficiency are actually more serious and long-lasting than previously thought. While the new data is mostly confirming what we already knew, it also shows how long-lasting the effects can be. Ranging from concentration and memory in the short term, all the way to immune system health and shortening your lifespan.Many Americans deprive themselves of sleep in hopes of getting more done, but the science says it’s actually hurting them. “Every disease that is killing us in developed nations has causal and significant links to a lack of sleep," says Dr. Matthew Walker. "So that classic maxim that you may [have] heard that you can sleep when you're dead, it's actually mortally unwise advice from a very serious standpoint." With that warning comes some advice from the sleep doctor.Rule number one, don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep. Your brain associates locations with activity, so spending a lot of time awake while in bed is actually really bad for your sleep health. If you can’t sleep, go to another room and ensure it’s dimly lit and do a non-stimulating activity (i.e. no TV, cell phone, tablet), like reading or even meditating. Sleep doesn’t accumulate so when you get less than your 8 hours, you can’t make up the deficit by sleeping more the next night. Sorry folks, your body doesn’t work like a bank for sleep.
It's important that we take care of our sleep health now, as the quality of our sleep decreases as we sleep. The brain is an important factor in sleep health because it actually helps regulate, but as we age it loses the ability to get the high quality, non-REM sleep. Prescription sleep aids as well as over the counter drugs also don’t help, as they put the brain in merely a sedated state, not a resting state. The old rule still applies as far as caffeine goes. Despite your ability to fall asleep after having caffeine, the brain still functions improperly during sleep if there is caffeine in your system. The next day you may wake up feeling groggy and eventually reach for the coffee pot more throughout the day. That cycle will become a crutch and your sleep will suffer.The best things for you to do is to go to bed at the appropriate time, only use your bed for sleep (well, within reason, wink), and don’t have caffeinated drinks late in the day.Read more fitness articles here.