Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety. Sleep gives your body the opportunity to restore wear and tear, and prepares you for the following day.
The way you feel while you are awake depends in part on what happens while you are 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.
So what is the recommended number of hours’ sleep you should have each night? The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) in the US revised the recommendation in February this year. For people over 18 years, 7 – 9 hours per night is recommended. Under 18 years, even more!
The NSF also emphasises the importance of sleep while you are pregnant. Now apart from the fact you probably won’t get much when the baby is born, poor sleep can have an effect on labour and delivery. Researchers at the University of California found that women who had fewer than 6 hours sleep per night had longer labours plus were 4½ times more likely to have caesarean deliveries.Therefore, it is important that women prioritise sleep and figure our effective strategies to manage any sleep issues.
Considering if we live to the young age of 75 years, based on an average 8 hours per night sleep – that is 25 years of shut-eye, or 9,125 days. Wooaaw – that is one third of our lifespan. There must be some benefits right?
Of course and here are some:
During sleep you can strengthen memories or practice skills learned while you were awake. (it’s a process called consolidation). Dr Rapoport, an associate professor at NYU says “something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better.”Might be why I was listening to the classical musician Handel while I slept during my final year in school!? Subdue Inflammation and ImmunityInflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get less sleep—six or fewer hours a night—have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more.A 2010 study found that C-reactive protein (produce by the liver), which is associated with heart attack risk, was higher in people who got six or fewer hours of sleep a night. The body also fights against immunity so with well-rested blood cells, the body is ready to fight against infections, colds and diseases.
If you’re an athlete or even a non-athlete training for an event, there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep. A Stanford University study found that college basketball players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.So next time you are about to do a TJ Fit Intervals session, a half or full marathon, or even a team sport on the weekend – early to bed is the key to peak performance.
Drop the KGs
If you are thinking about going on a diet, you might want to plan an earlier bedtime too.Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. (They shed similar amounts of total weight regardless of sleep). Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep.
Sleep and Stress both effect our cardiovascular health. We tend to compromise on sleep when stress hits, or deadlines are due. However, taking a break and a snooze benefits your heart health but also your productivity (see next point).Sleep reduces the levels of stress which gives better control of blood pressure and in turn plays a big role in combating heart disease.
Getting enough quality sleep at the right times helps you function well throughout the day. People who are sleep deficient are less productive at work and school. They take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time and make more mistakes. Ever heard the expression “I’ll sleep on it”? Decision making is made easier and more effective after the right amount of sleep due to the brain resting and regenerating its cells.After several nights of losing sleep, even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night, your ability to function suffers as if you haven't slept at all for a day or two.
Live a longer life
A study headed up by Dr Francesco Cappuccioshow that those who slept less than 6½ hour a night were more likely to die prematurely than those who sleep longer.These are only a handful of benefits why sleep is important. However the most important benefit of sleep is yet to be mentioned – your physical health. Sleep allows the body to heal and repair the heart and blood vessels. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutein the US, ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke plus obesity. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of hormones. With a good nights’ sleep and the right number of hours, the hormone that makes you feel hungry (ghrelin) balances out with the hormone that makes you feel full (leptin). Lack of sleep makes the levels of ghrelin increase, making you feel hungrier than if you were well rested.
5 Helpful Hints for a restful sleep
No caffeine after midday. Remembering that most, if not all, black teas contain caffeine so herbal is recommended. In saying that, even Green Tea has a small amount of caffeine. I like to have a chamomile or lemongrass tea within the hour prior to bed. It gives me the water intake my body needs for hydration during sleep but also relaxes me in preparation for a good night’s rest.
Have your last meal at least 2 hours prior to bedtime. This assists with digestion and prepares the body for rest. If this is not possible due to late night work or other reasons, go for an easy 20-30 minute walk after your meal. If you feel you need ‘something’ before bed, have a glass of water. This not only hydrates your body for sleep but it also fills you up.
Turn off all electrical devises 1 hour prior to sleep. This means phones, computers and preferably the television. The light (ie pixels) on the device stimulates the retina in the eye which increases the release of the hormone serotonin (the hormone for wake-mode). For sleep, we need to move from our wake-mode to rest-mode and release melatonin (hormone released by pineal gland to regulate sleep-wake cycle). Instead of electrical devices, read that novel you have been meaning to read.
Magazines are not ideal as they still have bright colours which stimulate the release of serotonin.
As my bedtime is 9.30pm, once a week I finish work at 8pm so to come home and check emails/look at Facebook and/or Instagram, it takes me an extra hour or two to settle the mind and fall asleep. Instead, I have adopted the habit of checking for missed calls after my Bodypump class at the gym before driving home. Once home a nice warm shower and a chapter of a novel is all I need for a restful sleep from 9.30pm to 5am.
Dim the light and set up your surroundings ready for sleep 1 hour prior to Zzzzzz. Apart from switching the devices off, dim the light as well. This may mean, turn the main lights off and just put a side lamp on. This prepares your body for the wake-sleep cycle mentioned above and settles the mind as well.
Maintain a healthy diet. There are certain foods that assist in the wake-sleep cycle. There is an amino acid called tryptophan which suppresses appetite and promotes sleep. There are a bunch of foods, usually found in your fridge and cupboard already, that has this sleep-inducing hormone you can include into your meals to prepare you for a restful sleep. Just to name a few here are some examples:
Fish (Halibut is full of tryptophan and rich in B6, a natural sleep aid)
Turkey (wonder why you need a siesta after Christmas lunch!?)
So tonight when you prepare for bed, dim the lights, turn the devices off and settle down with a herbal tea and a good book.
OMG(!) and to celebrate Halloween on Saturday, here is a healthy simple recipe for inside of the pumpkin you have just cut out.