The Importance of Sleep


Shakespeare had it right when he wrote about one of the most important requirements of our life – sleep.

The fact is that without adequate amounts of sleep we are deeply affected in the most negative of ways.

While the immediate effects are obvious – you’re likely to be groggy, unfocused and sluggish – often craving caffeine, the others signals are not immediately associated with being overtired – you could be overly emotional, ravenously hungry and clumsy.

Most people don’t get enough sleep and we live in a society which often implies that the amount of sleep we get should be a choice as opposed to a necessity. You want to stay up late and work? Go for it. Party til the small hours? Why not? Crawl out of bed in the early morning hours to go to the gym? Yes, yes, yes.

However, going without adequate amounts of sleep carries with it both short and long-term consequences. The average adult needs about seven to nine hours of sleep each night, according to experts but most of us don’t get that much.

This, despite the fact that going without sleep for long periods of time has a detrimental effect. Study after study has revealed that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for a number of diseases and health problems.

Going without sleep can increase the risk of stroke. Adults who regularly slept fewer than six hours a night were found to be four times more at risk of suffering a stroke than those who got enough sleep.

Lack of sleep is also said to increase the likelihood of developing diabetes as it leads to insulin resistance and increased calorie intake. Weakened bones are another effect of long term sleep deprivation, due to changes in bone mineral density and bone marrow.

And did you know that lack of sleep can lead, not just to short -memory loss but permanent cognitive issues? The less we sleep, the less we benefit from the memory-storing properties of sleep. But additionally, a lack of sleep can cause brain deterioration.

Some studies have even linked lack of sleep to cancer. What’s more, lack of sleep may affect not just the quality of your life – but the length. According to Time magazine, there is research to suggest that those who sleep for too little time over long periods, die younger than those who get between six and a half and seven and a half hours per night.

A 2010 study examined the impact of sleep on mortality and found that men who slept for less than six hours a night were four times more likely to die over a 14-year period.

In short, it is unwise to ignore the impact on and importance of sleep in our lives. And while there are many factors leading to a good night’s sleep, one of the most important is a good mattress. Think about it: we spend on average 25 years of our lives in bed, so a good mattress can simply not be under estimated.

But how do you know if it’s good and how should you go about buying the right one?


Shop at a store that specialises in mattresses

The salespeople at a mattress specialty store usually have more training on which mattress will suit you best. Try to find a shop that carries several major brands.

Size Matters

You can move anywhere from 40-60 times a night, including full body turns. In order to have an undisturbed sleep you need freedom to move unobstructed while you sleep and to help you relax while getting to sleep. Make sure your mattress gives you room to move around comfortable throughout the night. A double bed is 4ft6 wide which is just 18 inches wider than a single size. That leaves each partner only 27 inches of personal space or about the width of a baby’s crib. Both single and double sizes are approximately 6ft3 long, which may be too short for some adults, especially men. In contrast, Super-King beds are approximately 6ft wide by 6ft6 long, about 1 ft wider than a King, the best choice for couples that want maximum personal sleeping space.

Get support

The first decision you have to make has to do with a mattress’s core. A good mattress is designed to provide support for your body at all points and keep your spine in the same shape as a person with good standing posture. Chose according to your personal health and comfort requirements. For example a memory foam mattress has no springs and moulds to fit your body. It means you are less likely to twist and turn during the night. Some complain about the heat of a memory foam mattress, but it is possible to get gel-infused memory foam which solves this problem through regulating the body temperature. And of course, unless you are sleeping alone, bear in mind what your partner prefers.

Do the ‘Goldilocks test’

Shop for the best value mattress, not the lowest price. The best assurance for good mattress performance over many years is to buy the highest quality that you can afford. Be sure to ‘test drive’ your new mattress and lie down on several models. Spend at least 3-5 minutes on the mattress focusing on the ‘feel’. The longer you spend on the mattress the better as some mattresses can take a few minutes to mould to your body. When you find the most comfortable type of mattress, ask to see more within that ‘comfort range’ and discuss with the sleep specialist the benefits of the different mattress support systems.

Firm is not always finest

Think twice before buying a hard or firm mattress. Research shows that the best mattress for low back pain is a medium to firm mattress, rather than a firm mattress. There is a difference between firm support and firm feel. You want firm support with a comfortable feel. Comfort will be determined by your personal preference.

Remember, it’s your mattress, your back and your money, so it’s worth the time to research it and get the best mattress possible. Ultimately it may just lead to a longer life.

See the range of mattresses at Harvey Norman here.

In Short: Sleep is more important than many people realise. Learn how a lack of sleep can impact your life and how you can improve your night’s sleep.

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Posts from the Harvey Norman blog team.

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