If there’s a wonder nutrient for health, it’s sleep. It costs absolutely nothing, takes no extra time and can literally transform your life. During our sleep, our brain and body get the chance to rest and recover; healing muscle tissue, restoring memory and rejuvenating skin cells.
Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle of stress, over reliance on technology, and constant busy-ness can interfere with sleep, and many of us are getting by on much less than we need. Even if you do manage the ‘recommended’ eight or nine hours sleep per night, you may not be experiencing quality sleep. And if that’s the case, you’re missing out on many of the benefits.
The cost of sleep deprivation
Lack of sleep can lead to a range of health concerns, including:
Sleep loss dumbs you down
One of the most important factors in active learning is a ready and active brain. Without enough sleep, your brain is less alert, less able to focus, concentrate and solve problems. When it comes to learning, getting enough sleep is critical.
Promotes weight gain
Lack of sleep increases our levels of ghrelin, a hormone which regulates appetite. It’s ghrelin which drives us to reach for a blueberry muffin the morning after a bad sleep, or a candy bar at 3pm. Ghrelin also promotes fat storage, so it’s a doubly bad for weight-gain – when we don’t sleep enough, we not only want to eat more, we also store fat more easily.
There’s another reason poor sleep makes us fat – research shows sleep deprivation increases our levels of cortisol, a stress hormone which promotes the storage of fat around the abdomen. One significant study found that sleeping for less than six hours per night is linked with an increase in waist circumference.
Negative effects on blood sugar levels
Sleep deprivation can lead to diabetes, experts say. “There is some evidence that sleep deprivation could lead to a pre-diabetic state,” according to Dr. Mark Mahowald, director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center. Mahowald said the way the body reacts to sleep loss is similar to insulin resistance, when cells fail to use insulin efficiently and blood sugar soars. When levels are too high, it can lead to damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.
It’s bad for your hearts
Lack of sleep could be as damaging to our hearts as smoking or obesity. Heart disease, heart failure and heart attacks are more likely for those who don’t get enough sleep. Poor sleep leads to increased inflammation and higher levels of stress hormones, which can elevate blood pressure and place unwanted strain on the heart.
Messes with mood
Chronic sleep deprivation is often linked to depression and anxiety, though there is a catch-22 aspect to this equation. While the lack of sleep can aggravate the symptoms of depression; depression and anxiety can make it harder to fall asleep. The treatment of either condition can usually ease symptoms of both.
It may put your partner’s health at risk
If you are living with a partner and you are tossing and turning from insomnia or are snoring heavily from sleep apnea, there’s a good chance you’re preventing your partner from getting a good night’s sleep too. Even as the numerous times you wake up and roll over impact your own quality of sleep, your partner on the other side of the bed, is experiencing the same sleep interruptions. While those who snore have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and high blood pressure, the health risks can be just as dangerous for the spouse who has diminished sleep from sharing the same bed.
The secret to a good night’s rest
If you want to enjoy quality sleep, you need to create healthy sleep habits.
First, make sure your bedroom is designed for sleep and nothing else. Move the TV to another room and get rid of all personal electronics like laptops, tablets etc. If you work from home, avoid doing work in your bedroom.
Decorate the walls with soothing colors and make sure that bed linens and pillows are plush and comfy to promote soothing sleep.
Go to bed at the same time each evening (even on weekends!), and make sure you allow 30 minutes to 90 minutes to wind down before turning out the lights. Turn off all devices and maybe try reading, meditation or a gentle yoga sequence to help you relax.
Limit sleep disruptors
While stress and other health problems may be to blame for your lack of a good night’s sleep, it could also be the foods you’re eating that are keeping you up all night.
Most of us realize we should avoid caffeine after 1 or 2 pm, but there are a number of other foods that should be avoided close to bedtime to improve the quality of your sleep.
Heavy, fat-laden meals (think burgers and fries or multi-meat pizzas) rev up your digestive system, so your body doesn’t really get a chance to slow down for the night. A nightcap might seem like a good idea, but when the alcohol wears off, you could find yourself awake again and tossing and turning.
Spicy foods are also a bad choice at night, as when the digestive system slows during sleep, your food doesn’t digest as quickly, and you could experience heartburn.
Go natural and avoid sleeping pills
Tempted to pop a sleeping pill to help you get a good night’s rest? You might want to think again.
Prescription sleeping pills can be addictive, meaning overtime you may have even more trouble falling asleep naturally. They can also have some pretty nasty side effects, for example, people who have taken the prescription drug Ambien have reported instances of sleep walking, sleep eating and sleep driving, making the drug a potentially dangerous option.
It’s much safer to try a natural supplement like Xtend-Life’s Neuro-Natural Sleep. Neuro-Natural Sleep is a synergistic blend of herbal extracts including hops, valerian root, passionflower and hawthorn, which help support restful sleep. Neuro-Natural Sleep is non-habit forming and will not cause day time drowsiness or sleep disturbances. Taken as part of a healthy lifestyle along with good sleep habits, it can help optimise your likelihood of getting quality sleep.
 Leproult, R. American Sleep Disorders Association and Sleep Research Society Sleep Loss Sleep Loss Results in an Elevation of Cortisol Levels the Next Evening. Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.; and Center for the Study of Biological Rhythms and Laboratory of Experimental Medicine, Erasme Hospital, Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium. Sleep. 20(10):865-870 © 1997
 Kim, CE et al. Association between sleep duration and metabolic syndrome: a cross-sectional study.BMC Public Health. 2018 Jun 13;18(1):720. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-5557-8.
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