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A lot of people think that living a healthy and balanced lifestyle boils down to exercising and eating right. While those things are certainly important, they're not the only things that matter when it comes to making the healthiest choices for your body. 

You're working out, you're eating nutritious foods—but how are your sleeping habits impacting your health? We reached out to John DeLucchi, an OrthoCarolina Clinic Manager and PT in Mooresville, to find out how much sleep you actually need in order to live a healthy lifestyle.

First Off: Why Does Sleep Even Matter?  

We track our sleep on our FitBits, and we're bombarded with messaging about how important it is to get in your eight hours each night. But what actually makes getting enough sleep an important component of living a healthy lifestyle?

"Appropriate rest is so important for our body's different systems," John explained. "It helps improve our cognition, strengthens our immune system, and helps our musculoskeletal system repair. Rest can help our nervous system to improve our memory, motor function, and learning. It is the foundation for recovery that we so often miss."

What Are The Benefits of Getting Enough Sleep?  

So, it sounds like there are plenty of reasons to squeezing in some solid shut-eye each night. But we wanted to know more about the physical benefits associated with getting enough sleep.

"Getting the right amount of rest can help our performance on many different levels, including but not limited to improved energy, muscle recovery, and nervous and immune system function," John told us. "It can also aid in decreasing injury. Athletes that don’t get enough sleep are at greater risk for injury."

Those are definitely some good physical reasons to get into bed at a reasonable hour. What about emotional reasons—what mental and emotional benefits can come along with good sleep?

"Getting the right amount of rest can help with our learning, cognition, and overall mental health," John said. "Adequate rest will give us a heightened state of arousal, which helps us perform better throughout our day."

It appears that there are plenty of benefits that come along with a good night's sleep. But what could really be so bad about missing a few hours of snoozing? We asked John what problems we could face if we don't get enough quality sleep each night.

​"Not getting enough sleep can increase injury risk, increase our likelihood of getting ill, and decrease our alertness throughout the day," John warned. 

How Many Hours of Sleep Should You Aim to Get Per Night?  

Clearly, we should be aiming to get a good night's sleep on a regular basis for all kinds of reasons. So, how many hours actually constitute a good night's sleep? How long should we plan to sleep if we want to live a healthy lifestyle?

John told us that recommendations vary based on a variety of factors, from your age to the intensity (and amount) of physical activity you complete each day. 

"As rule of thumb, anything more than seven hours is appropriate—but quality always trumps quantity," he explained. "Younger and more active individuals should get more quality sleep. For instance, an athletic teenager should get 9-10 hours of sleep."

We also wanted to know whether it mattered if you went to bed early, or if you slept in late. "There is an advantage to being an early bird," John said. "Getting to bed early and waking up early generally results in improved sleep quality and productivity during the day."

What Can We Do To Try to Get the Best Sleep Possible Each Night?

Go to bed early, and aim for more than seven hours of sleep each night (or more, if you're young and athletic): got it. Now, we asked John if there were any particular activities we should try to partake in before bed to get our best night's sleep. 

"We have to know our own patterns, and aim to cut the distractions and electronics," John said. "For instance, if you often wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing, place a notebook near your bed to write things down so you can complete the task and get back to sleep."

He also mentioned that it's important to get in the habit of slowing down before heading to bed, rather than trying to 'slam on the brakes' after an intense period of activity. 

"We need to get in a ritual of 'cooling' our system down to prepare it for sleep, because it can be a challenge to be running at 100 mph then abruptly try to get to bed," John said.

And of course, cut out the screen time before hitting the hay. "Those who use electronic devices around the time they are trying to go to the sleep generally take longer to fall asleep than those that cut them out earlier," John explained. "We need to set clear boundaries on electronics. Either take them out of the bedroom, or make sure you have phone on silent mode."

And as important as our nighttime routine is for getting a good night's rest, we also need to think about our morning routine and how that impacts our day. "What we do when we wake up is very important. How we build or morning routines and rituals can help us win the day," John said. "So, make some time in the morning to sip some coffee, meditate, exercise, and build your day."

Learn More About Living A Healthy Lifestyle From the Experts at OrthoCarolina

​Whether you've recently experienced an injury, need help with recovery after tough workouts, or are simply experiencing chronic pain and need help  managing it, OrthoCarolina can help. Make an appointment at a location near you to start getting the treatment you need.