I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I am awake, you know? – Ernest Hemingway
Various articles have been published confirming what you already know – SLEEP IS DRASTICALLY IMPORTANT FOR YOUR HEALTH. So important in fact, that you could consider it an essential nutrient – equal to that of food, water or air.
The quality and quantity of your sleep can affect your mental, physical, emotional and social well being, as well as your short term and long term health. Lack of sleep has been connected to everything from decreased energy and mental focus all the way to increasing your risks for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more.
Sleep is a big deal – and chances are you wish you could sleep better. It’s estimated that approximately 10% of Americans take some sort of over-the-counter or prescription sleep aid simply to help them with something that should come naturally and easily – SLEEP!
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SLEEP
There are so many reasons why we need sleep for health and well being. During sleep, every system in your body rests, with the exception of your brain & nerve system. These actually kick into high gear, ensuring that the following occurs when you are asleep:
- Repair and regeneration of nerve cells, skin cells, body tissue and organ cells.
- Hormones are balanced, including the hormone responsible for appetite control. (Have you ever noticed how you crave junk food and have a bigger appetite after a poor night’s sleep?)
- During deep sleep, the brain sends additional blood flow to your muscles which allows them to repair and build energy for the next day.
- Your brain regulates emotions and helps you enjoy better moods when you are awake, putting you at less risk for depression and anxious feelings.
- Your brain processes memories from the day and makes connections between events, feelings, prior memories, emotions and sensory input. It strengthens and structures memories and reinforces learning by rehearsing skills you taught during the day. Students take note!
- Getting a good night’s sleep pays off during the day. Your thinking will be clearer. You are capable of better logic, attention span and decision making. You are less likely to make silly mistakes and forget where you left your glasses. Your brain just works better and is more creative.
- Your brain detoxes when it sleeps – the cells of the brain actually shrink, which allows the fluid between the cells to flow more freely and wash away toxic byproducts produced while you are awake.
- Human growth hormone is released during the deep sleep phase which is responsible for regulation of body composition (% fat, % water, BMI etc), body fluids, muscle and bone growth, sugar/fat metabolism and overall heart function.
With all of these, and more, occurring while you sleep one can easily see the importance of both quality and quantity of sleep.
A few natural sleep techniques
- Remove all electronics from your bedroom
- Make the room as dark as possible, doing your best to eliminate any light leaks from the outside
- Cool the room to between 65 -73 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the optimal sleep temperature range
- Limit exposure to electronics (phones, tablets, PCs, TVs, etc.) once the sun goes down
- Listen to sleep meditation before bed
- Drink chamomile tea before bed
- Have a semi-strict bedtime and bedtime routine. Your body responds to habits