We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to functioning and feeling our best, but there is so much more that our brains and bodies undergo during sleep that is essential for good health. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Inadequate sleep is associated with many chronic diseases, inflammation and altered immune function.
DECREASED SLEEP IS LINKED TO WEIGHT GAIN
Poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain. When you do not get enough sleep, your body produces a hormone, ghrelin, that boosts appetite while decreasing the production of another, leptin, a hormone that tells you that you are full. Lack of sleep will lead you to eat more than you should and gain weight.
POOR SLEEPERS HAVE A GREATER RISK OF HEART ATTACK AND STROKE
Blood pressure and heart rate decrease during sleep, giving your heart and blood vessels a chance to recover. Lack of sleep increases the risk of both cardiovascular disease and stroke.
SLEEP AFFECTS DIABETES RISK
Sleep can also affect glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk. Diabetes increases your risk of many diseases like heart disease, kidney disease and cancer.
SLEEP IMPROVES IMMUNE FUNCTION
When you sleep, your body makes cytokines, or proteins that fight infection, and produces antibodies and other immune cells. Just small losses in sleep — seven versus eight hours, for instance — have been shown to impair immune function and increase infection risk.
POOR SLEEP IS LINKED TO INFLAMMATION
Sleep deprivation is associated with inflammation, which in turn is linked to many chronic medical conditions like heart disease, autoimmune disease and cancer. While you sleep, your body is doing a lot of work that is vital for good health. If you do not wake refreshed, feel fatigued during the day or have trouble falling or staying asleep, talk to your doctor. Make good sleep a priority!
TIPS FOR BETTER SLEEP
Many factors can interfere with getting a good night’s sleep, so here are some tips to encourage better sleep.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. This will reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
- Avoid heavy or large meals, nicotine, caffeine and alcohol within a couple of hours of bedtime. Although alcohol can make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt your sleep later in the night.
- Limit daytime naps to no more than 20 minutes.
- Get daily physical activity, but avoid exercising too close to bedtime. More activity is better, but even a 10-minute brisk walk can help.
- Expose yourself to sunlight in the early morning. For instance, you could drink your morning coffee on the porch or near a window. This will help set your circadian rhythm.