We’ve all heard that seven or eight hours of sleep a night is optimal. But who has time for that? There’s that paper you have due, and you waited until the last minute to start writing it. The baby keeps on crying. All. Night. Long. You couldn’t stop watching cat videos, and now it’s three am and you have to be at work by eight.

If this sounds like your current reality, pay close attention: It’s time to start making time for sleep again, because it is the key pillar to our health and well being. Humans have evolved over time to need a large block of sleep each day and without it, we simply cannot function optimally.

Not convinced? Research shows that inadequate sleep contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease, risk of stroke, higher infection rates, accidents, and injuries, cancer, and even dementia. In other words, the most common causes of death? Are inextricably linked to not getting enough shut-eye.

Less deadly but also a bummer are other side effects of sleep deprivation, like weight gain and high blood sugar levels. Being chronically tired also contributes to inflammation and mood instability. Good thing there’s an easy way to stop looking older than you are and feeling constantly sick and tired, crabby and achy, and fat and depressed.  All you have to do is find more time in your busy schedule to sleep.

Besides, getting a healthy amount of sleep isn’t just about avoiding bad things. Committing seven to eight hours a day to quality slumber reaps some wonderful benefits, too. Your memory and creativity are heightened. Your ability to concentrate and comprehend increases, and with it so does your productivity. Just think how much faster you’ll get that promotion or raise your GPA once you start sleeping enough!

Trying to get in better shape? Sleep is the key once again. Not only does adequate rest mean you’re far less likely to overeat, but your athletic prowess will vastly improve. Studies show longer sleep times correlate with greater speed, reaction time, and accuracy during physical activity. Maybe you’ll finally win that tournament or trophy you’ve been after.

Truly, the benefits of getting the proper rest go on and on. Sleep contributes to better immune function, so you’ll have to deal with being sick less often. It lowers depression rates and feelings of stress, and who doesn’t want to feel happier? And how about the biggest of the big reasons: Get enough sleep and you’re likely to live longer. Who knew simply spending more time in bed could lead to so many good things?

Now that you know how important getting a good night’s rest is, make a commitment to yourself to improve your nightly routine. Some sleep tips to help you get started include:

  • Stick to a schedule, even on the weekends. You can’t “make up” for lost sleep by getting extra hours here and there, so make sure you’re going to bed and getting up at the same time whenever possible.
  • Create a bedtime ritual that signals to your body and mind that it is time to rest. Turn off the television and put your phone down. Take a bath, shower, or use essential oils like lavender to overcome any anxiety the day may have brought with it. A heavy, weighted blanket also adds to that calm, relaxing feeling, and many people get to sleep more easily using one.
  • Eliminate afternoon power naps if you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. They help in the short-term but just delay sleep at bedtime, making it hard to get enough dozing in before the morning.
  • Make sure you’re getting some exercise, preferably in the morning or afternoon. Working out too close to bedtime can be counterproductive to good sleep as it tends to be too stimulating.
  • Make sure your sleep environment is a comfortable temperature. In addition, dark and quiet are best for sleeping, so if you need to, wear an eye mask, ear plugs, or invest in a white noise machine to get rid of any excess light or noise.

The bottom line is to feel better, you need to sleep more. So crawl under the covers and snuggle in for a solid eight hours. Your entire life will improve just by taking the time to rest. Easy, peasy, zzzzzzzzz-y.

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