Sleep, we all love it – especially when we wake up from a great night’s sleep. In the past, sleep was often ignored by doctors but now we are beginning to understand the importance of sleep to overall health and well-being. In fact, when people get less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep each night, their risk for developing diseases begins to increase.
Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Sleep is a time for your body to repair damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays and other harmful exposures. Your cells produce more protein while you are sleeping. These protein molecules form the building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair damage.
While many organs in the body can rest and recover during relaxed wakefulness, a part of the brain called the cerebral cortex can only do this during sleep. When you sleep really deeply, your brain starts to recharge. Your learning and memory are enhanced. And when you spend enough time in the deepest stages of sleep, your muscular coordination and immune systems also benefit
A recent survey found that more people are sleeping less than six hours a night, and up to 75% of us experience difficulties sleeping at least a few nights per week. A short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to worry about. The bigger concern is chronic sleep loss, which can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power.
Normal sleep runs in cycles, with each one ending with the dream state of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
The first stage is light sleep, The second stage is when body temperature drops, and both breathing and heart rate are regular. The third and fourth stages are when deeper sleep takes place – when muscles relax, blood pressure drops, breathing slows, and increased tissue growth and repair occurs. It is here when hormones are released and energy restored.
While more research is needed to explore the links between chronic sleep loss and health, it’s safe to say that a proper amount of time spent in deep sleep is crucial for everyone.
Seven reasons to get enough sleep:
- Sleep Keeps Your Heart Healthy
Heart attacks and strokes are more common during the early morning hours. This fact may be explained by the way sleep interacts with the blood vessels. Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol, all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Your heart will be healthier if you get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
- Sleep May Prevent Cancer
People working late or at night have a higher risk for breast and colon cancer. Researchers believe this link is caused by differing levels of melatonin in people who are exposed to light at night. Light exposure reduces the level of melatonin, a hormone that both makes us sleepy and is thought to protect against cancer. Melatonin appears to suppress the growth of tumors
- Sleep Reduces Stress
When your body is sleep deficient, it goes into a state of stress. The body’s functions are put on high alert which causes an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones. Higher blood pressure increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes. The stress hormones also, unfortunately, make it harder for you to sleep. The increase in stress hormones raises the level of inflammation in your body, creating more risk for heart-related conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes
- Sleep Makes You More Alert
A good night’s sleep makes you feel energized and alert the next day. Being engaged and active not only feels great, it increases your chances for another good night’s sleep. Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
- Sleep Bolsters Your Memory and Learning
Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better in tests later. While your body may be resting, your brain is busy processing your day, making connections between events, sensory input, feelings and memories. Getting more quality sleep will help you remember and process things better.
- Sleep May Help You Lose Weight
Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
- Sleep May Reduce Your Risk for Depression
Sleep impacts many of the chemicals in your body, including serotonin. People with a deficiency in serotonin are more likely to suffer from depression. Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness.
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