Mark Basil is the CEO of a health and wellness company in Utah and regularly lectures on the benefits of good sleep. Here, he shares with us how a good night’s rest contributes to your overall emotional and physical well-being.
We all know that it is very important for our physical and spiritual selves to get enough sleep. However, Americans are the worst in the world at getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation, which provides the recommendations for sleep, says that adults need 7–9 hours per night, but preferably 8–9 hours. There are many, many reasons we need enough sleep, but I will highlight just a few here.
In order to break a bad habit or an addiction, your brain has to be plastic—easy to change and adopt new behaviors. Without adequate sleep, our brain loses its plasticity, which means it is very difficult, nearly impossible, to break an addiction without adequate sleep. Without enough rest at night, we tend to make poor decisions and can make the same mistakes over and over again. We’re stuck in a rut and can’t get out.
Without enough sleep, we tend to overestimate rewards and underestimate consequences. This can lead to things like overeating because we are overestimating how good the food will taste and underestimating the long-term consequences of added weight gain. In more severe circumstances, someone can take their own life because they are overestimating the perceived reward of being out of emotional pain and underestimating the long-term consequences of added grief and harm.
The first part of our brain that shrinks when we don’t get adequate sleep is the prefrontal cortex. It is the front part of the brain associated with decision-making and emotional maturity. When this part of the brain shrinks, we might keep our math skills, but our relationships and rational thinking will suffer.
Also, when we don’t get enough sleep, our body doesn’t replenish many of its key hormones. Two of these are serotonin and dopamine. These are the “happiness hormones.” Many emotional issues that we deal with as a society have to do with a lack of serotonin and dopamine. A lesser amount of these hormones can contribute to anxiety, depression, ADD, ADHD, OCD, Parkinson’s disease, tremors, restless leg syndrome, a decrease in libido, and even dementia. In fact, over 30 percent of all cases of anxiety are preceded by having a lack of sleep.
Here are seven techniques that will ensure that you get enough restful sleep every night: