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Your Sleep, Your Health

Why is sleep so important to a healthy lifestyle?

We have all heard them: get your sleep; sleep is important; 8 hours a night minimum. But how many of us actually take these words to heart, and how many give them the ‘smile and nod’ treatment? Just like so many other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, it takes more than just hearing about the importance of sleep; it takes hearing it (yes, over and over), reading it, and becoming an informed consumer of it. So here is just a little more information on the topic of sleep to help nudge you in the direction of your health and fitness goal.

Rest

Your body needs rest. As humans, our bodies have been built upon years of evolution, and those years of evolution have kept ‘sleep’ as a prime ingredient in how well we function. Not getting the proper rest that our body needs and deserves threatens smooth operation. Sleep deprivation can be seen externally and can be felt internally as it disrupts your systematic functions. This is also referred to as disruption of the circadian rhythm or our “body clock”. Down the road, such disruptions lead to increased risk of many health problems, including obesity and heart disease. Maximizing your rest will minimize health risk factors due to sleep deprivation.

Recovery

During sleep our body restores itself. We recover the energy we lost during a days worth of activities. This is due to the fact that our body has the ability to measure how long we have been awake during a given period of time and how active we were during that period. These internal measurements affect how tired we feel at night depending on our determined sleep necessity. So if you find it difficult to fall asleep at night, one quick solution is to be more active when awake. A way to do this? Exercise! We know the many other benefits exercise will bring, now here is another. Exercise is sleeps best friend. Another mistake we tend to make is to sleep, sleep deprivation, rest, tiredregard sleep as optional. It is often the “back burner” chore after everything else on the to do list has been completed. However, this is a   [2] problem, and needs to be recognized as such. Denying your body of sleep denies it of its recovery phase. Muscle functions and mental functions become impaired, leading to impaired decision making, clogged thoughts, and reduced reaction time. You may even end up like this guy, with sleep deprivation affecting your job and daily activities. So if you are still not convinced on the importance of sleep yet, consider the feeling of rejuvenation you have after a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

Rejuvenation

Who wants to look, feel and act younger? Most people do. Sleep is the all natural, no creams and needles, way of achieving this. Sleep benefits your mind and body. When you sleep, your body is able to re-energize and refresh. When this does not take place, not only does it affect appearance, but it affects the way you feel. You are not yourself when you are sleep deprived. So here are a few tips to help you achieve a better nights rest.

  • As previously mentioned, get exercise, be overactive during the day so when your head hits that pillow, your body and mind are ready to drift off to dream world
  • Simply relax. If you are getting stressed out about not being able to fall asleep, chances are it’s going to take you even longer to fall asleep than it would have because now rather than letting your mind relax, you are getting it worked up by worrying about the sleep that you are missing. If you find yourself not relaxing while in bed, get up and do something else, maybe something that was on your mind, and then once that is out of the way, lay down and try again. Chances are you will end up getting more sleep that way than if you continued to lay in bed worrying for the next few hours.
  • Make sure the place where you are sleeping is dark and quiet. Those are our body’s natural ques for ‘sleep time’.
  • I know you have heard this one before, and it is often easier said than done, but leave the bed for sleeping. Doing homework or sorting bills on your bed will confuse your minds interpretation of your bed, and then, you may find yourself in the same situation as number two, where when you get in bed at night your mind will wander to what homework or paperwork you didn't finish rather than shutting down for sleep.
  • And a final method to transition into sleep mode, is to take a hot bath or shower before bed time. As your body cools down after a hot shower, that will kick start your bed-time response system, as your body temperature naturally lowers before sleep. [1]

Bottom line: Today's schedules and priorities often push sleep to the wayside, but we need to recognize just how important that sleep we are missing is; sleep affects everything and a step to a healthier life is recognizing this and making positive steps towards improving it.

 

Posted By: Jennifer

Live, Laugh, Love Your Body

 

[1]  Miller, G. (2013). Chasing Slumber.  Psychology Today. Retrieved from <psychologytoday.com/articles/201308/chasing-slumber>

[2] Image courtesy of  jesadaphorn from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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