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The Importance of Sleep

We all know we need sleep, but does it really matter how much we get? It turns out it does!

While sleeping, the body performs a number of repairing and maintaining processes that affect nearly every part of the body. As a result, a good night’s sleep or lack thereof, can impact the body both mentally and physically. Most adults should aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Did you know that sleep:

1. Improves your mood. Sleep restores the body and improves energy levels. Chronic lack of sleep can lead to anxiety, depression and irritability.

2. Promotes a healthy heart. During sleep the heart rate slows down and blood pressure decreases, which allows the heart and vascular system to rest. Lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack and heart failure.

3. Regulates blood sugar. Sleep impacts the body’s relationship with insulin. Getting enough sleep each night helps ensure blood sugar is regulated throughout the body.

4. Improves mental function. Sleep helps with memory and cognitive thinking. Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on the ability to think clearly and decreases the ability to function optimally throughout the day

5. Restores your immune system. Sleep restores and repairs the body. Inadequate sleep impacts the body’s immune system response to infection. Chronic sleep loss can make individuals more susceptible to common infections (think the common cold).

6. Provides stress relief. Restorative sleep helps manage stress.

7. Improves athletic performance. Sleep is a key element for athletic recovery. Production of growth hormone is highest during sleep and is necessary for the repair of tissue and muscle growth. Lack of sleep contributes to lowered performance, increased risk of injury, fatigue and changes in mood.

8. Helps maintain a healthy weight. During sleep, your body naturally produces more of an appetite suppressor, called leptin, while reducing the production of the appetite stimulant ghrelin. During lack of sleep, the production of these hormones is reversed and can cause an increase in hunger.

Now that we know the benefits, HOW can we get better sleep?

1. Create a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on the weekends.

2. Make a quality sleep environment. Think a dark, quiet and cool bedroom.

3. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bedtime. Try to limit caffeine and nicotine intake to before mid-afternoon. Alcohol is associated with lighter, lower quality sleep, so try to limit intake on a regular basis.

4. Exercise during the day. This can make it easier to fall asleep and daily exercise is associated with better sleep quality.

5. Avoid screens before bedtime. Set aside electronic devices at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Phones, tablets, computers and other electronic devices with screens emit blue light, which can disrupt the body’s natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin and make it difficult to fall asleep.

Happy sleeping!

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