You’ve probably heard many times that sleep is very important. But other than feeling rested, do you really know why? Like hydration, adequate sleep is one of the cornerstones of your health. Sleep is so much more than just rest, and the practical definitions that we know it to be.
The Role of Sleep
Sleep serves many purposes outside of just resting our bodies. Sleep supports:
- Healthy brain & body function
- Resetting your ion channels – think about these as the gateways to your cells
- Cell growth and repair
- Inflammation reduction
- Good mood and emotions
- Heart health
- Brain health
- Joy – we’re talking about the physical, mental and emotional connections, and
- Energy – sleep replenishes our energy
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
Adults aged 18-64 years old should be getting 7–9 hours of sleep every night. If you are age 65 and above, then 7–8 is recommended.
When Should We Sleep?
It is recommended that we take all of our sleep at night. However, if for some reason you cannot, then you may include 10–30 minute naps as needed. What Happens When We Don’t Get Enough Sleep? When we need more sleep, our body sends us signals that it is sleep-deprived – we often confuse these signals with hunger.
Many of us crave unhealthier food when we are tired
So, if you feel like you want to just mindlessly eat a bag of unhealthy crunchy snacks, know that it is likely the result of not getting enough sleep.
Lack of sleep can also affect us by causing
- Increased body pains
- Challenges with organizing/planning
- Working memory problems
- Problems dealing with complicated new situations
- More impulsivity
Sleep and Weight Loss
Sleep also helps with weight loss as well as maintaining target blood glucose levels. Research has shown that lack of sleep has been found to trigger certain hormones regulating hunger and appetite, which may lead to over-eating and putting blood glucose levels out of balance.
Tips for Better Sleep
- Make sure that you have exposure to both daylight and night darkness as well. They are both so important for circadian rhythms
- Limit intake of substances such as caffeine and nicotine especially in evening hours. It may take up to 7 hours to metabolize caffeine by 50%. Caffeine blocks the brain chemical that induces deep sleep.
- Exercise is also critical for good sleep. However, don’t exercise too late at night. It can take 2–3 hours for our body to fully recover and cool down after an exercise session, so it is better to exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime.
- Also, something else that we often hear a lot about, and is also true, is to put down our computers, phones and anything device with blue light at least one hour before bedtime.
- It helps to create bedtime rituals like reading before bed, or taking a warm shower to relax.
If you have tried these techniques and you are still struggling with your sleep, please speak to your doctor about it.
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