Can a lack of quality sleep Age you? Short and sweet answer is yes. Acclaimed sleep expert Dr. Matthew Walker notes the average adult should get between seven to nine hours of sleep every night. If you aren't getting it, once this sleep is lost, it's gone forever. You can't "catch up" on the weekend or after your finish your current work project. Your body needs a steady sleep schedule in order to work properly long-term. Unfortunately, up to 33% of Americans don't get that much sleep each night. Without enough sleep, the body's aging process speeds up. People who battle with insomnia or sleep deprivation tend to look and feel older than they are.
However, it's not only about your feelings and appearance. Your body suffers physically when it doesn't get enough sleep. You may find yourself beginning to experience health problems common to many of our olders. These can include back and joint pain, heart problems, type 2 Diabetes, strokes, and Parkinson's Disease. There is also a connection between failure to get enough sleep at night and Alzheimer's Disease. Your cognitive performance also depends a great deal on getting enough sleep at night, which is why many people who have insomnia or another type of sleep deficiency have a hard time working or studying during the day. Such individuals may also find it hard to control their emotions and make good decisions on important matters.
The good news is that it's possible for anyone to get good quality sleep every single night. Here's what you'll need to improve your sleep hygiene and thus boost your physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life.
Pay Attention to Your Pillow
Experts recommend replacing your standard pillows every two years. When you use standard pillows for an extended period of time, they accumulate contaminants such as mold, mildew, and dust mites. These substances can not only ruin a good night's sleep but also trigger allergies and other health problems. Sleeping on a Memory Foam foam pillow, is a better bet as the material doesn't harbor mold, mildew and dust mites, and choose one with an antibacterial pillowcase.
And if your pillow's the wrong size and/or type, it may not support your neck and spine properly (hence a kinked neck in the a.m.) additionally the wrong pillow will put pressure on your face. This causes wrinkles that leave you looking older than you are. If you sleep on your stomach, you'll want a very thin pillow, or a pillow designed to support your alignment while stomach sleeping or you may even be better off sleeping without a pillow than with one. People who sleep on their backs do best with a thin pillow that cradles the neck. If you like sleeping on your side, you'll need a firm pillow that completely fills the distance between the ear and the outside shoulder. Alternatively, if you sleep in different positions, the SLEEPWITHME Beauty pillow may be your best option. It's designed to provide proper support no matter which position you sleep in. It also slows down the aging process by helping you to avoid putting pressure on areas of your face that may develop permanent wrinkles.
Choose the Right Mattress
Some mattresses are arguably better than others. However, in most cases, picking the right mattress is a matter of determining which mattress is the best fit for you personally. Foam and airbed mattresses are ideal for couples. Hybrid mattresses offer both contouring and bounce, making them ideal for any sleeping position. As an added benefit, these mattresses don't retain much heat. This makes them ideal for people who live in hot climates. Innerspring and latex mattresses are ideal if you need something with bounce. However, bear in mind that innerspring mattresses don't offer pressure relief, making them a poor choice for anyone who suffers from head, neck, or joint pain.
It's also important to pick a mattress that's firm enough to offer proper support. A mattress with a firmness level ranging from two to five works well if you weigh less than 230 pounds. If you weigh more, you'll likely want a medium-firm, firm, or extra-firm mattress. A firm mattress is the best choice if you weigh over 130 pounds and sleep on your back or stomach, as such a mattress keeps your back aligned to prevent back pain and discomfort.
Blackout curtains are a simple yet effective tool to help you get to sleep faster at night and sleep for longer than you would have otherwise. If your room isn't dark enough because you live in a brightly-lit area, or you work at night and sleep during the day, the light coming into the room will disrupt your sleep. That's because your body needs darkness to produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycles.
As an added benefit, blackout curtains can help to keep the room cool if you live in a hot climate. Scientific studies indicate that cool temperatures help your body enter the deepest stage of the sleep cycle. This is the stage in which your body strengthens your muscles, bones, and tissues. It's also the stage that boosts your immune function. If your room is too warm when you're sleeping, your body will have a hard time entering into a deep sleep. You may wake up feeling tired and fatigued even though you slept through the night. Keep your room cool! 65 degrees!
Blackout curtains are ideal if you have insomnia or sleep deprivation. Even so, anyone can benefit from them. Choose a brand that doesn't contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC), as this material is bad for both the environment and humans.
The Connection Between Good Habits and Good Sleep
Granted, even the best pillow, mattress, and curtains won't guarantee a good night's sleep. Take a look at your schedule and habits to see how you can help yourself sleep better at night. Avoid stressful activities too close to your bedtime. These can include not only arguing with a spouse but also exercising, reading an intense novel, watching an action-packed movie, or finishing up a work project from earlier in the day. Don't drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages too close to your bedtime as these interfere with the body's natural sleep cycle.
Dr. Walker also recommends that people save their beds for sleep and intimate activities. Associating your bed with activities such as work, reading, and conversations causes your brain to equate being in bed with being awake. If you can't fall asleep after lying in bed for half an hour, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired enough to go to sleep.
When you sleep, your body works on fixing itself and improving immune and cognitive function, so you're ready for the next day. Giving yourself the right sleep tools is an investment that will pay off great dividends long term. An anti-aging pillow is a must if you want to not only feel but also look your best. A comfortable mattress that's right for your sleep position and weight will help you sleep better and avoid aches and pains. Blackout curtains help your body enter the deepest sleep stage to improve overall physical and mental health. And remember to keep it cool. Finally, assess your habits to help yourself avoid problems such as insomnia and sleep deprivation. While there's no such thing as a key to forever youth, science shows that getting enough sleep every single night will slow down the body's natural aging process, leaving you looking and feeling youthful and energetic.