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How important is a good night’s sleep? A new study shows that men who lose sleep frequently are more likely to suffer from heart disease, according to the European Heart Journal. And women who experience nightly sleep disruptions for prolonged periods are twice more likely to suffer serious complications from heart disease than women who sleep more soundly.

And that’s only one risk of sleep deprivation. Adopt healthy sleep habits, though, and you can improve your overall wellbeing and avoid such dangers. And, bonus, it’s usually pretty easy to do (and something you probably look forward to).

Here’s what makes sleep so good, why doing without sleep can be so bad, and how you can make your slumber better.

The benefits of good sleep

Your body needs a good night’s sleep—one of the key factors in good health. Proper sleep consists of REM, or rapid eye movement, and non-REM cycles, which occur several times a night. Scientists believe that, during REM cycles, your body stores memories, balances your mood, and helps your brain process what you learn during the day (and even helps you to recall it all later).

Non-REM cycles are just as important. During these cycles, you experience your most restorative sleep. Your heartbeat and breathing slow to their lowest levels, allowing your muscles to relax. Your body, meanwhile, promotes tissue growth and repairs, and releases hormones. Overall, your energy is restored during non-REM cycles, helping you feel rested and energetic in the morning.

Sleep even regulates your eating habits, helping you produce, ghrelin, the hunger-stimulating hormone.

The consequences of bad sleep

Ultimately, you literally can’t live without sleep. But the more common types of sleep deprivation can bring many consequences, both short and long term.

Long term effects can be like the heart disease and shortened lifespans chronicled in that European study. As for more immediate ramifications, sleep deprivations can lead to tragedy: Every year, drowsy driving may be the cause for as many as 6,000 fatal car crashes, according to the CDC.

Really, it makes sense that sleep deprivation can lead to highway fatalities. The day after a sleepless night, you might experience fatigue, short temper, and even lack of focus. Your body needs sleep to recharge and produce hormones that help your body function properly. Getting an inadequate amount of sleep can compromise your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness and infections. Many chronic conditions and illnesses are linked to poor sleep, such as obesity, mood disorders, diabetes, heart disease, and even fertility issues.

Plans for better sleep

According to the CDC, about 35 percent of adults report sleeping fewer than seven hours per night, on average. Ideally, though, adults over 18 should be getting at least that many hours a night. Here’s how to achieve that.

Start by creating a consistent sleep schedule—waking up and going to bed at the same time every day. For those who have trouble falling asleep at night, keeping your room quiet and cool helps.

Keeping active may also help improve sleep, so try exercising regularly. And while you’re at it, try maintaining a healthy diet: Studies show that lack of key nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium, are associated with sleep problems. Eating sugary foods can also affect sleep patterns, making you feel sluggish during the day.

Winding down at night can be helpful to ensuring a good night’s sleep. Limiting your exposure to bright lights and electronic devices 30 minutes for bed can signal to your brain that you’re approaching bedtime. Avoid eating large meals right before bed, since digestion can disrupt sleep. Instead, best to have, as they call it, a bedtime snack.

A comfortable mattress can be a huge factor in promoting better sleep. The experts at Mancini's Sleepworld can help you decide which mattress is best for you. To learn more, click here or call (800) 647-5337.

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