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Good Sleep for Good Health

Most of us have busy, hectic lives. There is always a new task to be added to the schedule until eventually something has to give and for many of us that something is our sleep. We look at sleep time as cutting into our productivity and think "it’s more important to get this done than it is to sleep". But that attitude will ultimately catch up to us. Good sleep is necessary for good mental and physical health and if we neglect it, we will pay the price.

The stages of sleep

There are 5 different stages of sleep and we need to move through all of them each night if we want to feel our best. We start our sleep in stage 1 and progress to stage 5 and then go back and forth between 2 and 5 repeatedly during the night. Stages 4 and 5 are the deepest levels of sleep called REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep. It is during this stage that we dream the most and important processes in the body take place.

Chronic lack of sleep can have adverse effects on our mental and physical health in several ways. It can cause us to gain weight, make us prone to insulin resistance and it can speed up the aging process.

Weight gain

Natural SleepImportant activities take place in the body during sleep which contribute to health and healing. During REM sleep injured tissues are repaired by the production of growth hormones. These hormones stimulate the production of protein in the muscle as well as the breakdown of fat. This helps to control the allocation of fat to muscle in the body. Constantly missing out on the deepest levels of sleep can lower the amount of growth hormones thereby causing the accumulation of more fat. Lack of sleep can also lead to a lower level of leptin which is a blood protein that helps to regulate appetite.

Insulin resistance

Chronic lack of sleep can also affect how the body uses carbohydrates and glucose. In individuals who are chronically low on sleep, blood sugar levels rise to a higher level and return to the normal state more slowly. Their bodies also secrete a smaller amount of insulin. Studies have shown that individuals who experience a chronic sleep deficit will usually develop insulin resistance.

Sleep and aging

Not getting enough sleep can also contribute to premature aging. Lack of sleep causes the brain to produce less than the normal amount of hormones, which is a condition found the in the elderly. Getting enough sleep can help to turn back the clock.

Quantity vs. quality

When it comes to sleep quality is as important as quantity. You need to have sufficient time in each of the stages of sleep, to feel your best the next day. Not getting enough sleep can lead to irritability, lack of clear thinking and lethargy the next day. It can also lead to a weakening of the immune system and make you more susceptible to sickness.

Different people require different amounts of sleep. Usually adults need around eight hours per night while children require approximately 10 hours and infants around 16 hours per night.

If you skimp on sleep you seriously risk both your physical and mental health. If something must be cut back in your schedule, make sure it’s not sleep. You will look and feel better for it!


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