Monday, May 11, 2009

Health Benefits of Sleep

Happy belated Mother's Day! As I was laying in bed this afternoon taking the lovely afternoon nap that my family granted me on Mother's Day, I actually started thinking about how much I miss feeling relaxed and a good night's sleep. Ever since the birth of my twin girls a little over five years ago, sleep has taken a back seat in my life, as it does with most mothers. I am a night owl and an early riser which is definitely not a good combination.

We all know that sleep is important but why?

  • It helps to repair your body - Your body produces extra protein molecules while you're sleeping, and these help to mend your body at a cellular level. The damage from all kinds of things, such as stress, pollutants, infection, sun exposure and so on, is repaired while you're happily in the land of nod.

  • Helps maintain a healthy heart - Your heart and cardiovascular system is constantly under pressure, and one of the benefits of sleep is that it helps to reduce the levels of stress and inflammation in your body. High levels of 'inflammatory markers' are linked to heart attacks, heart disease and strokes. Sleep can also help keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels (which play a role in heart disease) lower.

  • Reduces stress - A good night's sleep can lower blood pressure and the elevated levels of stress hormones which are a natural result of today's fast paced lifestyle. Too much stress causes excess 'wear and tear' on your body, and increases the aging and degeneration of organs, cells and other body parts. By reducing high levels of stress, sleep helps to reverse these effects and encourages a state of relaxation.

  • Improves your memory - That 'foggy' feeling that you struggle with when deprived of sleep makes it difficult to concentrate. This often leads to not being able to 'commit to memory' facts, faces, lessons or even conversations! Sleeping well eliminates these difficulties because as you sleep, your brain is busy organizing and correlating memories. One of the great benefits of sleep is that it allows your brain to better process new experiences and knowledge, increasing your understanding and retention. So, next time you hear someone say "why don't you sleep on it", take their advice!

  • Can help control your body weight - Now, this one might surprise you! One of the lesser known benefits of sleep is that it helps regulate the hormones that affect and control your appetite. Studies have shown that when your body is deprived of sleep, the normal hormone balances are interrupted and your appetite increases. Unfortunately this increase in appetite doesn't lead to a craving for fruits and veggies, no, instead your body longs for food high in calories, fats and carbohydrates! So, if you're trying to lose those stubborn few pounds that just keep hanging around, make sure that getting enough sleep becomes a priority.

So the next time you consider staying up just one more hour when you know you should be hitting the sack. Do your body and your mind a favor and call it a night.

- Shannan

Sources: Better Sleep Better Life

1 comment:

Hanlie said...

I'm quite a recent convert of getting enough sleep and it makes such a difference! Great post!

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