Why is sleep so important? I’ll give you 9 reasons:
1. Keeps Our Heart Healthy
Lack of sleep has been associated with increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both of which are among the greater risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Our heart can be healthier if we get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
2. Reduces Stress
When our body is lacking sleep, it enters a state of stress. Body functions are on high alert. This increases blood pressure and causes the production of stress hormones. Stress hormones then, in turn, make it harder for us to fall asleep, while higher blood pressure, as mentioned above, increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. By getting a good night’s sleep we can break the circle of stress and counteract its effects on our body.
3. Reduces Chronic Inflammation
The increase in stress hormones, caused by the sleeping disorders, has been associated with chronic inflammation disorders, such as periodontitis, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer, heart-related conditions, or diabetes. Chronic inflammation is also thought to be one of the causes of aging.
4. Makes Us More Active
A good night’s sleep will make us feel more active and alert on the following day. Energy levels after a good sleep are higher, your mental awareness is more acute and you are more likely to smile more. A restful sleep session not only feels great, but it increases our chances for another good night’s sleep next time we go to bed.
5. Boosts Memory
Researchers may have long been arguing on why we dream, but they do agree on the many processes that occur during sleep, among which something called memory consolidation. While the body is resting, our brain is busy processing our day, and making connections between events, feelings, experiences and memories. Sleeping time is the most important time for our brain to shape memories and make the connections, which can make it easier for us to retrieve those memories in the future.
6. Can Help Us Lose Weight
Researchers have found that people who sleep for less than seven hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. Lack of sleep affects the levels of ghrelin and leptin, the hormones responsible for regulating our appetite. So, to put it simply, if you want to stay in shape, get more sleep!
7. Makes Us Smarter
Napping during the day is not only an effective and refreshing alternative to caffeine, but can also make us more productive. After even a short sleep session, especially during the day, our mind regains focus and we can better tackle those tricky mental challenges. Sleep can also trigger creativity. Just remember all those “Eureka” moments you’ve had, waking up after a short nap.
8. Reduces Risk of Depression
Among the various biochemical substances affected by sleep, serotonin is perhaps the most famous one. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects our mood. High serotonin levels create the feeling of happiness, and low serotonin levels can make us vulnerable to depression and other disorders. Making sure we are getting enough sleep, between 7 and 9 hours every night, will help us regulate serotonin levels, thus feeling happier and more productive.
9. Helps Our Body Replenish
Sleep is the time for our body to repair any damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays and other harmful exposures. During sleep, cells produce more protein which is used in repairing damaged cells. Muscle injuries and other trauma also heal faster during sleep.
Here are a couple of ways to ensure a good night’s rest:
– minimize light pollution. We sleep best in darkness. Any light, including the lights on your clock radio are considered “light pollutants” so it’s best to not have the clock face you if possible. OR – wear a sleep mask.
– take a calcium / magnesium supplement before bed. Magnesium is a natural relaxant, but too much can cause diarrhea, so start with a small supplement (100g) and increase if needed. Cut back if it’s effecting your digestion.
– a small treat before bed, a cookie (or other starch) for example will activate the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor to 5-HTP and melatonin (the Arcadian rhythm regulator of the body). This is a natural way to activate your brain chemicals rather than popping 5-HTP or melatonin. If needed though, a nightly dose of 1.6 mg should help regulate your sleep patterns.
(yes, that is a Michael Jackson sleep mask. HECK YES.)