You've probably heard about the importance of having good "sleep hygiene" so you can fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply. Habits like keeping a cooler room temperature and avoiding bright screens before bed can all help improve the quality of your sleep. But what is the science behind all of this advice about getting a good sleep? Why do these suggestions work? Here's a look at why the human body responds so well to a good sleep routine.
Getting a Good Sleep Is Good for Your Health
Science still has a lot to learn about sleep, but one thing that's not disputed is a good night's sleep is vital to a well-functioning brain. Not getting a good night's rest can hurt your judgment, make you irritable, and make you more prone to accidents. In fact, drowsy driving has been found to be as dangerous as drunk driving.
Long-term sleep deprivation can even lead to an increased risk in numerous health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and even early death.
Poor sleep can lead to an increase in insulin, which promotes fat storage. It can lead to a decrease in leptin and increase in ghrelin, which both affect your appetite. It can increase cortisol, a stress hormone. Sleep also helps your brain process information and consolidate memories. In many ways, sleep is vital to your health.
Why Cooler Temperatures Help
The ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because your body naturally lowers its own temperature to induce sleep. A cooler room helps make this process easier. If your room is too warm, your body has a tougher time maintaining the ideal temperature and you'll sleep less soundly. In contrast, if your room's too cold, your muscles have to work to keep you warm, which can hurt your sleep too.
Why Bright Screens Hurt Sleep
Viewing bright screens on electronic devices before bed can be harmful to your sleep. The blue light from the screen makes you more alert, delaying your circadian rhythm and suppressing melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep.
This happens, in part, because the artificial light affects light-sensitive cells in the retina that regenerate a protein called melanopsin. That protein helps regulate your internal clock and suppresses melatonin.
Why Caffeine and Food Hurt Sleep
You've probably heard that it's good to avoid caffeine and snacks close to bedtime. But why? Caffeine is a stimulant whose effects are felt quickly. It can take about five hours for half of the caffeine you consume to be eliminated from your body. Some people may feel the stimulant's effects for hours while others may still feel the effects the next day. That's why it's important to not drink caffeine for at least a few hours before you go to sleep.
Meanwhile, eating too close to bedtime can lead to heartburn or acid reflux if the contents of your stomach flow back up into your esophagus while you're lying down. You're also more likely to feel stomach pain or nausea. These issues can make it tough to fall asleep and stay asleep.
It's clear that a good night's sleep is vital to your health. And when it comes to keeping good sleep hygiene, the science supports the advice you've often heard. Changing just a few of your habits at night can help you sleep more soundly and be more awake during the day.