Why Sleep is Required for Health

Posted on by Paula Gallagher

We know that not sleeping is unhealthy. And yet many of us are sleep deprived. So if we know that not getting enough shut-eye can be harming our health, what is keeping everyone awake at night? The amount of sleep that is needed for good health varies per individual and with age, and the effects associated with insufficient sleep differ just as much. What is consistent is that we know why sleep is required for health. • Sleep plays a role in brain function by helping to clean the pathways in the brain, and without sleep, your sensitive neurons cannot form new memories or learn. • During sleep, your blood pressure decreases, providing a much-needed rest to your circulatory system. It also uses this time to repair blood vessels. • Lack of sleep negatively affects your metabolism and can affect the part of the brain that controls hunger, causing an increase in appetite and cravings for sugar. • Your immune system relies on sleep to keep you healthy, and without adequate amounts, you may find yourself more susceptible to colds and infections or chronic illness. • Sleep is required for energy, both physical and mental, and a lack of it can affect judgement, performance, behavior and mood. Study after study has revealed that people who sleep poorly are at higher risk for several diseases and health problems. We all want a good night's sleep, but for some individuals getting good sleep consistently is not as simple as you would think. Shift work, travel and anxiety are just a few reasons why people do not get enough zzzzs. Here are some tips to help you get a good night's sleep. 1. Schedule your sleep. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time in the morning, even on the weekends. 2. Your bedroom is your sanctuary; it is not a place to work, catch up on Grey's Anatomy, or exercise. It is a place to relax and get some sleep. Invest in a good mattress and linens and make your bed as comfortable and as inviting as possible. Sometimes white noise can help, so try a fan – the constant hum may lull you to sleep! 3. Stop the caffeine. It is a vicious cycle – you are exhausted from a sleepless night, so you load up on coffee to get you through the day, and then it is difficult to get to sleep in the evening. Limit caffeine to the morning and drink herbal teas the rest of the day. 4. Get moving. Exercise promotes sounder sleep, but don't do it just before bedtime, or you may be extra alert. 5. Drink milk. Milk contains magnesium, a natural relaxant. It also contains tryptophan, an amino acid that may enhance sleepiness. If you don't eat dairy, you can also try magnesium supplements. 6. Try aromatherapy. Some people find that lavender is effective for promoting sleep. Spray a little lavender in the air or on your pillow before going to bed. Badger also makes a wonderful product called Night Night Balm, a soothing, scented balm targeted for kids, but really for anyone to help with unwinding from the day and getting ready to sleep. Moisturize your lips, or place some on your temples before going to bed! 7. Talk to a Village Green consultant about what supplements are available for sound sleep. There are many, and we can help you pick the right one for your needs. One of my favorites is Pathway Sleep Support. It contains a combination of supportive sleep products such as L-theanine, valerian and melatonin to promote a gentle effect to improve sleep and reduce nervousness. Managing your stress responses during the day can also lead you into a more peaceful night and prepare your body for an evening of sleep. Photo from here, with thanks.