It’s easy to take sleep for granted. It’s one of those things most people don’t think about that much, but recent studies suggest that sleep may be directly linked to your overall health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization, the average person needs about 6-7 hours of productive sleep each night. This refers to the deep or R.E.M. sleep. According to information compiled by the Journal of Sleep Research, if you are getting less than 6-7 hours of sleep each night you be at risk for certain medical conditions or diseases.
Sleep and Heart Health
According to the American Heart Association, most heart attacks occur in the early hours of the morning. Studies have linked a lack of sleep with high blood pressure and cholesterol. There is a greater risk for all heart-related disorders due to insufficient sleep, according to research reported by the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center. It has often been said that sleep replenishes the body. There appears to be some truth to this, especially in terms of the heart and other vital organs within your body. When you are in a deeper sleep, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard. It’s like a rest period for your heart.
Sleep and Cancer
According to the Cancer Research Institute, people working a late shift and catching up on sleep during the day have a higher risk of certain types of cancer. One study focusing on breast and colon cancer linked the exposure to a hormone called melatonin to the growth of tumors. Natural light during the day reduces the levels of this hormone. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for making us feel sleepy. It has also been shown to protect us from cancer by suppressing tumor growth. If you can’t change your work schedule, make your bedroom as dark as possible when sleeping during the day.
Benefits of Sleep
It’s hard to ignore the fact that there are some truly great health benefits to consistently restful sleep. Additional health benefits related to better sleep include:
• Less Stress – Stress and anxiety can lead to all kind of health issues ranging from high blood pressure to headaches. When your body is well-rested, you tend to be able to handle stress better.
• Less Inflammation – A productive sleep has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. This can be beneficial for those living with diabetes and circulation issues.
• Increased Alertness – Sleep increases alertness. This translates to better reflexes, more energy and an overall sense of being able to face the challenges of a typical day.
• Better Memory – Scientists don’t fully understand why we dream, but studies indicate we have several dreams each night. The only ones we recall are the ones occurring just before the sleep cycle is over, according to a study cited by the National Sleep Foundation. A link has been established between sleep, dreams and memory. Better sleep also has been linked to better short-term and long-term memory.
• Weight Loss – Production of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, related to controlling your appetite, is interrupted by uneven sleep patterns or lack of sleep. If you want a natural boost to your weight loss efforts, sleep just might play an important role.
What You Need for a Good Night’s Sleep
Use these tips to form good sleeping habits and make sure every night is a good night’s sleep. When in doubt, be sure to look into comfortable sleep and snoring aids to maximize the restfulness of your sleep.
1. Get Comfortable
When you’re young, it usually doesn’t take much to get to sleep or wake up on time. A big part of productive sleep is maintaining a schedule. Starting with the part about actually getting to sleep, proper support is important. This includes a firm, supportive pillow and comfortable room conditions. While it may be common to fall asleep with the TV on, you actually have a better chance of getting a good night’s sleep by eliminating as many distractions as possible.
2. Minimize Distractions
A nightlight isn’t just something for children. If you need some illumination at night, a carefully placed nightlight can do the trick. Just make sure it’s not in a place where it will distract you from getting to sleep. As for the waking up on time part, a good alarm clock can do the trick. Avoid sleep medication, if possible, due to the risk of dependence, and look into proper sleep and snoring aids (such as SnorePin or Breath Right Nasal Strips) to ensure a peaceful distraction-free sleep.
3. Set a Schedule
Our bodies, by nature, tend to like schedules. Make sure you’re comfortable before you go to sleep and take care of all basic needs such as brushing your teeth before hand. Light exercise before bed is fine, but you should avoid anything too strenuous. If you establish a regular routine, this should help you enjoy a better night’s sleep and better overall health.
4. Take a Nap
A study of 24,000 Greek adults found that those who took a nap several times a week had a reduced risk of heart disease. Less formal studies suggest that napping gives you a refreshed feeling and a burst of energy. Some companies have even set up areas where employees can take a nap on their lunch break.
There is something to be said for getting a good night’s sleep. Start by developing a regular routine. Avoid eating right before bed, although light exercise is just fine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, even on weekends and vacations. Catching a nap here and there won’t hurt either. Scientists still aren’t sure why we sleep. Clearly there are certain health benefits associated with enjoying a good night’s sleep.