Sleep is as important to living a healthy life as eating and exercising are. This post will look into the importance of sleep, how long you should be asleep for and suggest ways to improve your sleep.
Why sleep is important
The actual reason why we sleep isn’t fully understood, although it is well known that a lot goes on during the sleep. Both the body and the mind benefit from sleep. Research has shown that irregular/ disturbed sleep, or even sleeping too long can impact the body in a number of ways:
- Poor reactions/ mental function
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Irregular production of hunger hormones, causing fluctuations in appetite and cravings for sugar. This almost always results in weight gain.
- Increased risk of depression (over sleeping in particular has been associated with a 15% increased risk of developing depression)
- Increased risk of heart disease. The famous ‘Nurses’ Health Study’ found that regularly sleeping over 9 hours increases the risk of developing heart disease by 38%
Just by having a good night sleep you may be able to drop your risk of heart disease by up to 38%! Ok, so there probably is more to it that just sleeping, chances are that people who sleep for over 9 hours will be less active for example, which I sure is a massive contributor to that 38%. Still, the importance of sleep can’t be ignored, and if you can reduce your risk of all of the above problems, and feel better when you wake up, it certainly is worth trying to improve your sleep.
Ways to improve sleep
Avoid artificial lights at night – Exposure to light suppresses the production of melatonin, which is a vital hormone in inducing sleep because it regulates your body clock. As the sun goes down melatonin production slowly increases making you slowly feel tied. Exposing yourself to artificial light stops this, so when you do go to bed you aren’t properly tired and will have a disrupted nights sleep.
Exercise – Exercising during the day will induce a much deeper and satisfying sleep.
ZMA supplements – Taking ZMA supplements before bed can cause a deeper sleep, which will make you feel more rested. It can also causes very vivid dreams which some like, but others don’t.
Earthing – Studies have shown that walking bare-feet on the ground can reduce stress hormones and reduce insomnia. You might also want to look into other ways to tackle stress if you feel you have a hectic and stressful life.
Small amount of carbs before bed – Having a small helping of carbs before bed has been shown to help people fall asleep quicker.
We sleep to grow, repair and regulate various systems in our body. Disrupting sleep can impair growth/ repair and also disrupt some very fundamental biological systems which increase the risk of a number of diseases. It is important to try and sleep around 8 hours a day and avoid exposure to artificial light at night as much as possible to ensure a healthy body.