Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Don't Fall Asleep Reading This Post!

Sleep, Is It Vital To Your Health?

I’m sure you have all heard the joke, “My grandfather died very peacefully in his sleep……... not SCREAMING like the other passengers in his car.” Now this could be the immediate result from not getting enough sleep or more likely you would just be tired and irritable; however, prolonged sleep deprivation can have other serious, long term, negative impacts on your health.  

 We all love a great night's sleep, right? For me, those “great night’s” are few and far between. Being a parent, a business owner, a worrier, and an active person who is always “plugged in”, really puts a kink in getting enough rest each night. For many years, I didn’t think much about it. I just figured that was going to be my life, I accepted it and moved on. I had no idea that I was putting my long term health at risk.

In the past, sleep was often ignored by doctors and health professionals, but now we are beginning to understand the importance of sleep to overall health and well-being. In fact, when people consistently get less than 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night, their risk for developing diseases dramatically increases. Here are 7 great reasons to make it a priority to get enough sleep each night.

Heart attacks and strokes are more common during the early morning hours.  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.
2. Sleep May Prevent Cancer
People working the late shift 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. Be sure that your bedroom is dark to help your body produce the melatonin it needs.

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. One of the best things you can do is to learn relaxation techniques to counter the effects of stress.

The increase in stress hormones raises the level of inflammation in your body, also creating more risk for heart-related conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes. Inflammation is thought to be one of the causes of the deterioration of your body as you age.

Of course, 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. When you wake up feeling refreshed, use that energy to get out into the daylight, do active things, and be engaged in your world. You'll sleep better the next night and increase your daily energy level. As a bonus, you won’t end up like grandpa!

Researchers do not fully understand why we dream, but a process called memory consolidation occurs during sleep. Maybe the dream is the "in flight" movie? While your body may be resetting, your brain is busy processing your day, making connections between events, sensory input, feelings and memories. Your dreams and deep sleep are an important time for your brain to make memories and links. Getting more quality sleep will help you remember and process things better.

Researchers have also found that people who sleep less than 7 hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It is thought that the lack of sleep impacts the balance of hormones in the body that affect appetite. The hormones ghrelin and leptin, important for the regulation of appetite, have been found to be disrupted by lack of sleep. So if you are interested in controlling or losing weight, don't forget to pay attention to getting a good night's sleep.

In today's fast paced world, it's tough to get enough sleep, but I also think that our sleep gets a lower rating on the priority list. In order to achieve optimal health and wellness, we need to make it a priority! Here's your prescription from the health coach: get AT LEAST seven hours of sleep per night! If you're not going to listen to me....... listen to Stewie!   

No comments: