The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.
The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.
A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot that can interfere with natural sleep patterns. People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well.
Our skin is a very good indicator of our general health and well-being. You may be able to masque it, but you can’t really fool it. Our skin is our biggest organ and it gets constant exposure to the weather, UV light, dust, and sun, and when we sleep, our skin repairs itself.
Here’s why you should give your body the hours of sleep it needs:
While you sleep, your blood pressure goes down, giving your heart and blood vessels a bit of a rest. The less sleep you get, the longer your blood pressure stays up during a 24-hour cycle. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, including stroke. Short-term down time can have long-term payoffs.
Another thing that your brain does while you sleep is process your emotions. Your mind needs this time in order to recognize and react the right way. When you cut that short, you tend to have more negative emotional reactions and fewer positive ones.
When you’re running low on sleep, you’ll probably have trouble holding onto and recalling details. That’s because sleep plays a big part in both learning and memory. Without enough sleep, it’s tough to focus and take in new information. Your brain also doesn’t have enough time to properly store memories so you can pull them up later.
If your sport requires quick bursts of energy, like wrestling or weightlifting, sleep loss may not affect you as much as with endurance sports like running, swimming, and biking. But you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Besides robbing you of energy and time for muscle repair, lack of sleep saps your motivation, which is what gets you to the finish line. You’ll face a harder mental and physical challenge, and see slower reaction times. Proper rest sets you up for your best performance.
Steadier Blood Sugar
During the deep, slow-wave part of your sleep cycle, the amount of glucose in your blood drops. Not enough time in this deepest stage means you don’t get that break to allow a reset – like leaving the volume turned up. Your body will have a harder time responding to your cells’ needs and blood sugar levels.
Allow yourself to reach and remain in this deep sleep, and you’re less likely to get type 2 diabetes.
To help you ward off illnesses, your immune system identifies harmful bacteria and viruses in your body and destroys them. Ongoing lack of sleep changes the way your immune cells work. They may not attack as quickly, and you could get sick more often. Good nightly rest now can help you avoid that tired, worn-out feeling, as well as spending days in bed as your body tries to recover.
When you’re well-rested, you’re less hungry. Being sleep-deprived messes with the hormones in your brain – leptin and ghrelin, the ones that control appetite. With those out of balance, your resistance to the temptation of unhealthy foods goes way down. And when you’re tired, you’re less likely to want to get up and move your body. Together, it’s a recipe for putting on pounds.
The time you spend in bed goes hand-in-hand with the time you spend at the table and at the gym to help you manage your weight.
Sleep May Help Prevent Cancer
Did you know that people who work the late shift have a higher risk of developing breast and colon cancer? Researchers believe light exposure reduces melatonin levels.2 Melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, is thought to protect against cancer as it appears to suppress the growth of tumors.
Sleep needs vary, but on average, regularly sleeping more than 9 hours a night may do more harm than good. Research found that people who slept longer had more calcium buildup in their heart arteries and less flexible leg arteries, too. Your best bet is to shoot for 6-8 hours of slumber each night for peak health benefits.
Be sure that your bedroom is dark and avoid using electronics before bed in order to help your body produce the melatonin it needs.
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