Why Sleep is Important to Your Health
In the past, sleep was often ignored by doctors and surrounded by myths. Now, though, we are beginning to understand the importance of sleep to overall health and well-being. We've learned, for example, that when people get less than 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night, they are at a greater risk of developing diseases.
All the more reason to get some sleep, right? Here are 10 reasons why you should call it an early night.
1. Sleep Keeps Your Heart Healthy
Heart attacks and strokes are more likely to occur during the early morning hours, which may be due to the way sleep interacts with the blood vessels. Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Your heart will be healthier if you get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
2. Sleep May Help Prevent Cancer
Did you know that people who work the late shift have a higher risk of developing breast and colon cancer? Researchers believe light exposure reduces melatonin levels. Melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, is thought to protect against cancer as it appears to suppress the growth of tumors. Be sure that your bedroom is dark and avoid using electronics before bed in order to help your body produce the melatonin it needs.
3. 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 high blood pressure and the production of stress hormones. High blood pressure increases your risk for heart attack and stroke, and the stress hormones make it harder to fall asleep.
Learn relaxation techniques to counteract the effects of stress and fall asleep faster.
4. Sleep Reduces Inflammation
Increased stress hormones caused by lack of sleep raises the level of inflammation in your body. This creates a greater risk for heart-related conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes. Inflammation is thought to cause the body to deteriorate as we age.
5. 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 but increases your chances for another good night's sleep. When you wake up feeling refreshed, use that energy to get out into the daylight, do active things, and be engaged with your world. You'll sleep better the next night and increase your daily energy level.
6. Sleep Improves Your Memory
Researchers do not fully understand why we sleep and dream, but they have found that sleep plays an important role in a process called memory consolidation. During sleep, your body may be resting, but your brain is busy processing your day, making connections between events, sensory input, feelings, and memories. Deep sleep is a very important time for your brain to make memories and links, and getting more quality sleep will help you remember and process things better.
7. Sleep May Help You Lose Weight
Researchers have found that people who sleep fewer than 7 hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It is thought that a lack of sleep impacts the balance of hormones in the body that affect appetite. The hormones ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite, have been found to be disrupted by lack of sleep. If you want to maintain or lose weight, don't forget that getting adequate sleep on a regular basis is a huge part of the equation.
8. Napping Makes You "Smarter"
Nighttime isn't the only time to catch ZZZZs. Napping during the day is an effective, refreshing alternative to caffeine that is good for your overall health and can make you more productive. A study of 24,000 Greek adults showed that people who napped several times a week had a lower risk of dying from heart disease.
People who nap at work show much lower levels of stress. Napping also improves memory, cognitive function, and mood.
9. Sleep May Reduce Your Risk of Depression
Sleep impacts many of the chemicals in your body, including serotonin. People with serotonin deficiencies are more likely to suffer from depression. You can help to prevent depression by making sure you are getting the right amount of sleep: between 7 and 9 hours each night.
10. Sleep Helps the Body Repair Itself
Sleep is a time to relax, but it's also a time during which the body is hard at work repairing damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays, and other harmful exposure. Your cells produce more protein while you are sleeping. These protein molecules form the building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair the damage.