Hope you are doing great and having a wonderful week!
Mary Allen and I had a great weekend full of basketball, bowling, and other fun stuff. We got to sleep a little later
than usual both nights this weekend and could really feel the difference each day. It made me think about how much
sleep I had over the weekend and how much I really need to be healthy. I was also reading an article about sleep being
one of the most common issues that limit weight loss and affect health. So, I did a little research and found out some
things I didn’t know sleep and thought could be of help to you too. Here’s to your health!
WHY IS SLEEP IMPORTANT?
The Division of Sleep Medicine of Harvard Medical School states that your body manages and requires sleep in much the
same way it regulates the need for eating, drinking, and breathing. Last time I checked, breathing was pretty
Sleep occurs in multiple stages, and each stage takes care of different systems in the body.
The first 2 stages occur quickly as we fall asleep, and allow the body to relax. Next, the body enters into stage 3 and 4 where the body begins to repair and heal itself. The immune system, metabolism, and cardiovascular system rejuvenate and prepare for the next day, and the brain is least active. The body finally enters into REM (rapid eye movement) stage which is where the brain and nervous system heals and rejuvenate. During REM, the brain replays the day before, converting short-term to long-term memory, ingraining the movement patterns you used during the day, and purging information it deems unnecessary to make room for the next day (just like defragging your computer). This whole cycle takes about 90 minutes, and you will undergo ~4 cycles per night. That is why adequate sleep is so important for teenagers in school and even for us adults trying to be as sharp as possible dealing with stressful days and situations.
So what exactly does sleep do for us?
SLEEP HELPS YOU LOSE WEIGHT
Adequate sleep helps to balance multiple hormone levels including cortisol, insulin, leptin, and ghrelin. Leptin and
ghrelin levels actually affect and control your appetite. When you don’t get enough sleep, leptin and ghrelin become out
of balance and actually increase your appetite. Not good at all! Without adequate sleep, the hormones actually make you
feel hungrier than when you are better rested. If you are trying to lose the last few pounds or kick-start weight loss,
consider sleeping 8 hours for 2 weeks and see how you do!
SLEEP HELPS YOU PREVENT DIABETES
Without enough sleep, your insulin sensitivity is affected and your blood sugar levels actually increase. This is part
of the reason why lack of sleep has been linked with Type II Diabetes!
SLEEP IMPROVES BRAIN FUNCTION
As described earlier, the REM stage repairs and rejuvenates your nervous system and brain. Multiple studies have proven
the correlation between sleep and increased mental acuity and productivity.
SLEEP KEEPS YOU HEALTHY
Sleep also helps your immune system fight off multiple dangers from common colds, infections, and disease. Lack of sleep
limits our immune system and makes us more susceptible to be sick and under the weather. Your immune system needs this
time to repair and strengthen to fight infections.
SLEEP REPAIRS YOUR BODY
As we sleep, our body is hard at work at the molecular and cellular level repairing the wear and tear of our daily
stressors. The repairs done while we sleep also decrease inflammation to help keep our blood pressure down and decrease
our risk of stroke. Sleep deficiency has been shown to be linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease,
high blood pressure, and stroke.
As you can see, sleep is essential with huge restorative powers to our endocrine, metabolic, nervous system. . .
That’s great, but how do I get better sleep?
KEEP A REGULAR SLEEP/WAKE SCHEDULE: As challenging as it may sound, waking up the same time everyday has been shown to
establish a rhythm that improves sleep quality when a pattern is consistent. If you stay up late on the weekend (like I
did), instead of sleeping in, go to bed a little earlier the next night. The sleep you get before midnight will help
make up the sleep deficit better than the sleep after you get after midnight.
DON’T DRINK CAFFEINE 4-6 HOURS BEFORE BED. We all know why.
DON’T SMOKE near bedtime (how about not at all)
GET REGULAR EXERCISE: Multiple studies demonstrate the correlation between even moderate intensity exercises with
improved sleep quality. It has also been shown to help you fall asleep quicker.
MINIMIZE LIGHT AND NOISE: Bright light actually altars the circadian rhythms and sleep cycles: light of any kind
interferes with melatonin production and will impair and limit your sleep. Use the darkest curtains you can and even
cover up any lights in your room. Any type of noise will also limit the quality and quantity of sleep. A fan or white
noise machine can help drown out other noises that can keep you up. Some people even put their cell phone out of the
bedroom to minimize light, radiation, and noises emitted into the room.
HAVE A COOL ROOM: Temperature is another variable that can improve sleep quality. The most comfortable temperature has
been shown to be between 60-68 degrees. You may have to experiment a little to make it perfect but a cooler bed is
better than a warmer bed for quality sleep.
ESTABLISH A SLEEP RITUAL: Help you body realize it’s time to go to bed every night with a reliable, pattern of
activities to help your body unwind and relax. For example, reading for 10-15 minutes before bed will help your brain
relax. Just be sure it’s easy reading. For example, if you are a physicist, don’t read about black holes, but try
Danielle Steele. Light reading in a topic outside your norm will help tell your brain it’s time to shut down.
This is just scratching the surface on the topic of sleep and all that could be done, but it’s a great place to start.
I think we all know all if not most of these things, but sometimes it’s good to hear them again. Hopefully you can try a
few tips and see how you feel. Sleep well and have a great Easter.