Unlocking the Power of Sleep: Why Healthy Sleep Habits Matter

Embracing a consistent sleep routine is the cornerstone of unlocking the power of sleep and reaping the rewards of optimal health and wellbeing.

When my first daughter was born, the paediatrician explained the importance of a good sleep routine. It would benefit her health, and we’d be happier and healthier parents. It was a great piece of advice, perhaps the best part of preventative health advice we have ever received. Preventive health advice any of us could ever receive at any age.

Why is sleep so important?

There have been several studies highlighting the importance of sleep for a range of health reasons. For example, less sleep correlates with increased BMI, waist circumference, and visceral and subcutaneous fat. Reduced sleep reduces problem-solving ability. Less sleep has also been linked to metabolic syndrome, cortisol dysregulation, and impacted thyroid hormones. This is just skimming the surface of why sleep is essential, but these factors alone are pretty compelling for getting enough sleep.

Listen: Dr. Ron Ehrlich interviews Dr. W. Chris Winter. The post continues after the audio.

How much sleep?

Sleep requirements vary depending on life stage, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends:

  • Newborns, infants and toddlers (0-2 years) need 14-17hrs
  • Preschool to school age (3-10 years) need 11-12hrs
  • Teens (11-18 years) need 9-10hrs
  • Adults (18-65 years) need 7-9hrs
  • Seniors (over 65 years) need 7-8hrs

Sleep routine is critical.

If you think about our lives, so much is governed by routine – these seasons, daytime/nighttime, calendars, time, the workweek. Our bodies love routine and crave it. A good night’s sleep starts the moment you wake up. The choices we make throughout the day impact our quality of sleep. The food and drink we consume can be calming, nourishing, excitatory, and depleting. Additionally, how we move and think throughout the day impacts our hormone production, influencing sleep. As we draw closer to bedtime, our exposure to artificial light, stimulation, noise, temperature, mood and breathing all impact our ability to sleep.

Listen: Dr. Ron Ehrlich interviews Karen Faulkner. The post continues after the audio.

If your goal is 8hrs of sleep a night and you need to wake up at 6 am, you must be asleep by 10 pm. Therefore you should start preparing for bed at around 9 pm. This includes turning off screens, dimming lights and, of course, brushing/flossing teeth. Winding down with some deep breathing or a calming book can be an excellent way to unwind from the day mentally. You should be in bed and lights out around 9.30 pm/9.45 pm, depending on how long it takes you to sleep. Going to bed at the same time and waking at the same time is also essential for establishing a better routine.

Prioritizing a regular sleep routine is crucial to achieving and maintaining holistic wellness. With studies highlighting its impact on diverse health aspects like BMI, cognitive abilities, and hormonal balance, sleep’s significance cannot be overstated. Adhering to recommended sleep durations for infants to seniors fuels vitality and resilience. By respecting our bodies’ natural rhythms and embracing a structured sleep schedule, we empower ourselves to optimize our health. Remember, a balanced sleep routine is not just a mere habit; it’s a pathway to vitality and longevity.

Sleep lays the foundation for good health and is something I explore in depth in my book. Order your copy of A Life Less Stressed here