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May 13

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The Importance of Sleep

Ahhh sleep.

That blissful time after you rest your head on your pillow, snuggle up in your sheets, and prepare to drift off for hours and hours of uninterrupted sound sleep. Sounds amazing, right?? But in reality, we’re all running around in our hectic lives that sleep isn’t something we prioritize or even realize the importance of. Good, quality sleep is just as necessary as a healthy diet or fitness regimen

Sleep is a vacation for your body. It is a time of relaxation when each system, muscle, and organ in the body has a chance to repair and rejuvenate itself. Getting a consistent seven to nine hours of sleep each night is one of THE MOST effective things we can do for our bodies, brains, and overall health.

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Deep Sleep Is Essential For Your Immune System

The deep sleep phase (R.E.M.) is when our immune systems are at their most active; melatonin, growth hormone, and DHEA all increase and help in the rejuvenation process. Most of us know that melatonin is responsible for promoting restful sleep, but did you know it also detoxifies inflammatories? That’s why sleep-deprived people are prone to more infections.

This deep sleep is also when your brain has a chance to reorganize and repair itself; just like a computer does when the antivirus software clicks on. In fact, sleep is so important for our brain that The Guardian’s Matthew Walker states insufficient sleep is one of the most significant lifestyle factors that influence whether or not Alzheimer’s disease could be in your future. When we sleep, the glymphatic system (the brain’s extraordinary sewage system) goes into overdrive.

During deep sleep, the toxic, sticky protein beta amyloid (linked to Alzheimer’s) is cleaned out by this system. When we don’t get that power cleanse during sufficient sleep, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases.

Deep Sleep Allows You to Lose Excess Body Fat

During deep sleep is also when your body is able to lose excess body fat. When we don’t get an adequate amount of sleep, we have a higher level of the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone most of us DON’T want more of because it encourages overeating and stimulates our appetite. In addition, less sleep equals less leptin, the hormone that is responsible for controlling our appetite. Those who unknowingly deal with this lack of quality sleep hormonal imbalance crave more sugary and higher caloric foods.

Losing Sleep Can Lead to Bigger Problems

As if the need for rejuvenation, repair, and reduction of body fat wasn’t enough reason to get at least eight hours of sleep, skimping off a few hours here and there increases your chances of coronary artery disease, which then increases your chances for congestive heart failure and stroke. In fact, a global experiment conducted with over 1.6 million people found an increase of 24% in heart attacks on the day after daylight saving time goes into effect and we lose an hour of sleep. On the other hand, when we gain an extra hour of shut eye in the fall, there is a 21% reduction in heart attacks.

Maybe losing sleep isn’t as inconsequential as some of us think.

But how do you consistently get enough adequate sleep night after night?

How To Get Enough Sleep

It takes practice. And it should become a habit, just like eating right and exercising. It’s just as important and necessary on a journey of health and wellness. Here are some tips:

  • Get enough daytime exercise.
  • Eat food that promotes sleep: foods rich in tryptophan and complex carbs. End your day with a dinner or light snack that can be used to make serotonin to help start slowing down your brain for the day. 
  • Forget the nightcap; alcohol can result in earlier awakening and lower quality sleep.
  • Cut down on caffeine after the morning.
  • Have an earlier bedtime and try to stick to that schedule.
  • Have your bedroom set up for sleep (the bedroom should be for sex and sleep; nothing else) and decrease distractions, such as electronic or outside lights.
  • Lastly, if possible, wake up to your body’s own alarm clock; it’s much more enjoyable to wake up on your own then to be alarmed!

So while you are eating all the right foods and exercising all the right muscles, factor in some quality sleep. It’s important. It’s necessary. It’s vital!

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Sources:

POCKET WORTHY · Stories to fuel your mind. The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Health: Sleep Well ‘A consistent seven to nine-hour sleep each night is the most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health.’ The Guardian | Matthew Walker

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