Sleep brings us good health, enhancing our body, mind and spirit. We spend one-third of our lives asleep but a whole lot of activity is going on during this period.
- Repair occurs at the cellular level. While we sleep, muscle’s rebuild, red blood cells that carry oxygen rich blood (energy) are created, and wounds are healed. As a result, our immune system becomes stronger, our blood pressure is lower and our body has lower inflammation rates that would have otherwise damaged our blood vessels and led to heart disease.
- Learning is solidified and memories are processed. Knowledge, understanding and retention is improved. Think about how forgetful you are when you miss a few nights of restful sleep.
- Hormones are balanced, including those that help you maintain a healthy weight! When you are sleep deprived, the hormones that regulate appetite become out of balance. You may end up eating more calories by reaching for foods that are higher in fat and carbohydrates. Hormones that prevent you from becoming depressed and anxious are also balanced.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep each night. People who short themselves on a regular basis, live shorter, more sickly lives. The most important phase of sleep is the REM (rapid eye movement cycle). Each REM cycle lasts 90-120 minutes and most adults average 4-5 REM’s per night. Infants spend 50% of their sleep in REM, whereas adults average only 20% REM sleep. REM decreases with aging.
What causes lack of sleep, impairing important REM cycles? A host of factors including too much light, stress, the time of your work shift, sleep apnea (often caused by excess weight), frequent urination, menopause, excess brain stimulation before bedtime (computer or video games) and certain medications. Poor nutrition (caffeine, excess sugar, alcohol) and lack of adequate exercise are also key factors that negatively impact a restful night’s sleep.
Are you interested in better health? Sleep on it and get back to me in the morning.
For more information on sleep and athletic performance check out this Runners World post.
Categories: Nutrition & Wellness