The Importance of Sleep

Well, if you don't already appreciate the importance of sleep, we suggest getting in a few extra winks next week. While one day might not show a noticeable difference, a week's worth of shut eye will bring on loads of sleep benefits. The only problem is most people don't ever get to see them. Whether it's because you work too much, have to keep up with the kids or anything else, sleep is one of your best remedies. Here's what you're missing out on each day.

Help Your Heart:

Did you know that most heart attacks and strokes happen in the morning hours? We don't normally think about things like this, but it's a fact. They say that a person who has experienced a lack of sleep can hurt their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. So for crying out loud, go to bed earlier!

Diabetes Trigger?:

A recent study at Leiden University in the Netherlands showed that just ONE night of inadequate sleep reduced insulin sensitivity by as much as 25 percent in some test subjects. A couple nights of inadequate sleep may not trigger type 2 diabetes, but if this is your regular habit...who knows?

Another recent study showed that people who get less than six hours of sleep each night are more than four times more likely to develop blood sugar dysfunction compared to those who average more than six hours per night.

Alleviate Some of that Stress:

How many times have you been depressed, overwhelmed or just stressed to the max and went to bed? It happens all the time, but not because people want to get all the sleep benefits. Instead, we usually do it and hope that when we wake up everything will be okay again. Unfortunately all those stresses are still there, but a little more sleep can recuperate some of those important chemicals in the body.

Don't Forget about Mental Clarity:

There are many times when people who experience a lack of sleep lose focus throughout the day. Maybe they can't remember a specific part of their job, to pay a bill, or even to take their medicine. It happens all the time, but with a few extra hours of sleep your body can help refocus the mind. If you can do this, you'll notice that your mental clarity is much stronger when you're refreshed.

Control Your Weight:

The most overlooked benefit of sleep is being able to control your weight. Many studies have shown that a person who doesn't get enough sleep has a hormonal imbalance in the body that screams for foods that are high in calories. So the next time you grab that half gallon tub of ice cream at 11:00pm, just put it down and go to bed. You'll thank us for this one later.

Only the Beginning:

We've only scraped a few sleep benefits off the top of a mountain full of advantages. You've probably heard about other beneficial opportunities that come from sleep such as having an easier time learning, repairing sore muscles, helping to fight off diseases and disorders, along with several others. Even if you don't think you can find the time to sleep the right amount of hours a day, just try to reorganize your schedule. If you can, you'll be able to look forward to several other sleep benefits along the getting rid of those large shopping bags under your eyes!

Tips for Getting a Good Night's Sleep

If you are having problems falling asleep, waking up too often, or not feeling well-rested when you wake up in the morning, try some of these tips:

Get to bed as early as possible. Our systems, particularly the adrenals, do most of its recharging and healing between the hours of 11:00pm and 1:00am. In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins during this same period. If you are awake, the toxins back up into the liver which then backs up into your entire system and cause further disruption of your health. Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do.

Reduce or avoid as many drugs and supplements before bedtime as possible. Many medications, and even vitamins may disrupt your sleep.

Avoid caffeine. A recent study showed that some people can still feel the effects of caffeine long after consuming it. So an afternoon cup of coffee, tea or even some medications, such as diet pills containing caffeine, may affect your sleep.

Avoid alcohol. Alcohol may make you drowsy, but the effect is usually short lived and you may wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol will also keep you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep, where the body does most of its healing.

Sleep in complete darkness if possible. If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland's production of melatonin. The circadian rhythm plays an important role in when we fall asleep and wake up. Darkness stimulates the release of melatonin and light suppresses its activity. If possible, keep the light off when you go to the bathroom at night, or use a small night light. If you turn on the light you will immediately cease all production of melatonin for that night.

Lose weight. Being overweight can increase the risk of sleep apnea, which will prevent a restful night’s sleep.

Avoid foods that you may be sensitive to. Such as dairy and wheat products, as they may have an effect on sleep, like causing sleep apnea, excess congestion, upset stomach, etcetera.

Don't drink any fluids within a couple hours of bedtime. This will reduce the likelihood of you getting up to use the bathroom.

Take a hot bath or shower before bed. When body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime, facilitating sleep.

Your Bed is For Sleeping. If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and to think of the bed as a place to sleep.

If you are menopausal or perimenopausal, the hormonal changes may cause problems if not properly addressed.

Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule. You should go to bed, and wake up, at the same times each day. This will help your body to get into a sleep rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and get up in the morning.

Listen to Nature Sounds or Relaxation CDs. Some people find nature sounds, such as falling rain, the ocean or the forest, to be soothing for sleep.

Exercise regularly. Exercising everyday can help you fall asleep. However, don't exercise too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake.

Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan need to produce melatonin and serotonin. However avoid eating just before bed, especially grains and sugars. This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep.

No TV right before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom. It is too stimulating to the brain and it will take you longer to fall asleep.

Keep your feet warm. Due to the fact that they have the poorest circulation, the feet often feel cold before the rest of the body. A study has shown that wearing socks reduces night wakings.

Read something spiritual or religious. This should help you to relax.

Journaling. If you lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful keep a journal or notepad to write down your thoughts before bed.

Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). Some experts claim that exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic fields (as is common in household appliances) may disrupt normal cycles and production of melatonin, and seratonin, and may have other negative effects as well. Make sure to move electric clocks, clock radios, and other appliances at least 4 feet away from the head of the bed. Read more on EMFs here.And finally, avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on the body to be awoken suddenly. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, they should be unnecessary.

Return to Healthy Lifestyle from Importance of Sleep