We’ve written a lot about the importance of sleep, as have many others. That’s because new research has found more and more evidence of the damage too little sleep does to the human body, and more and more is being learned about its benefits for the human body, as well.
Research says adults need between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep each night for good health. But surveys have found at least a third of Americans don’t get those amounts.
If you do get 7 to 9 hours a night, good for you! And hopefully the information about the benefits of that sleep will encourage you to always maintain that schedule. If you don’t get enough, hopefully the information here will encourage and inspire you to do whatever it takes to get that much.
You Don't Take the Laundry Out of the Washing Machine Early to Save Time -- You Need All the Cycles...
Healthy sleep has 5 stages. And you cycle through them four to 5 times during a healthy sleep cycle. All of those stages are important and it’s important to go through all of them enough times every night. And it’s especially important to cycle through the deeper stages of sleep enough times each night.
Here’s a quick rundown on the various stages of sleep. During stages 1 and 2 the brain remains active as it begins a sort of editing process in which it makes decisions about which memories to store and which ones to let go. During stages 3 and 4 you enter a deeper sleep — almost coma-like. It’s during these deeper stages of sleep that the physiological cleansing and detoxifying processes of the brain takes place.
Your brain is said to actually shrink by about 60% during this deep sleep. This results in more space in-between the cells, which gives your cerebrospinal fluid more room to flush out the debris. And finally, there is stage 5 of your sleep, when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs… this is when dreaming occurs.
All the stages are important. But as we said the deeper stages are especially important. If stages 3 and 4 are missed, your brain ends up clogged with debris associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and, as we’ve reported before, sleep deprivation is a risk factor for severe dementia. Ariana Huffington, chairman, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, told National Geographic in an article it did on sleep, that “One of the metaphors I use is that sleep is like the laundry. You’re not going to take out the laundry 10 minutes early to save time. You have to complete all the cycles in the washing machine. Our sleep cycles have to be completed too; otherwise we wake up and feel like wet and dirty laundry.”
Less Than 6 Hours of Sleep Leaves You Cognitively Impaired ...
Getting less than 6 hours of sleep actually leaves you cognitively impaired and unfit for many functions. In 2013 drowsy drivers caused 72,000 car accidents and 800 deaths and 44,000 injuries in America. That’s more than the number of people killed by texting and drunk drivers combined.
Even if you don’t drive while drowsy and kill or injure anyone, you still have to deal with the risks to your own health from your poor sleep. Some health problems linked to insufficient sleep:
¨ Reduced productivity and creativity, impaired memory and reduced ability to learn new things
¨ Increased risk of neurological problems from depression to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
¨ Increased risk of Type 2 diabetes
¨ Decreased immune function
¨ Increased Obesity risk
¨ Increased Cancer risk
¨ Increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and cardiovascular disease
¨ Increased osteoporosis risk
¨ Increased risk of pain and pain-related conditions such as fibromyalgia
¨ Increased susceptibility to stomach ulcers
¨ Impaired sexual function
¨ Impaired regulations of emotions and emotional perception
¨ Increased risk of depression and anxiety (including post traumatic stress disorder) schizophrenia and suicide
¨ Premature aging
¨ Increased risk of dying from any cause
Easy Tips for Better Sleep...Including These Foods Eaten at the Right Time...
A lot of people know it’s best to “unplug” some time before you go to bed… stay off the computer, dim the lights, don’t watch TV or stress-inducing newscasts, etc. And don’t eat a big dinner right before bed.
However, you may not know that there are some foods that can help you sleep… if you eat the right ones, at the right time.
We’ve seen them called “sleep index foods”… but we don’t know who coined that phrase. But on the list of such “good sleep foods” is one unsurprising entrée — tryptophan. Tryptophan is the amino acid often blamed for people becoming lethargic after their Thanksgiving dinner… because turkey is a tryptophan-rich food and those foods make us sleepy. Besides turkey, hummus, lentils, and kelp are tryptophan-rich foods that also make us sleepy. Bananas are also “good sleep foods” because they contain tryptophan, potassium and magnesium, all of which are natural muscle relaxants. Cherries are a good source of melatonin so can help us get a more restful, reparative sleep.
Carbohydrate-rich foods are excellent at promoting better sleep. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high-glycemic carbohydrates, which rapidly raise sugar levels, encourage sleep when eaten about four hours before bedtime. Jasmine rice, potatoes, carrots, corn and honey are healthy options.
Eating “good sleep foods” calms the nervous system and triggers sleep-inducing hormones, but timing is critical. A large meal before bed can interfere with sleep. Tryptophan takes at least an hour to reach the brain so plan meals accordingly. Avoid rich, high-fat foods close to bedtime. They require a lot of work to digest and may cause heartburn or other stomach issues. Also drink beverages in moderation—too much fluid may cause a lot of trips to the bathroom during the night. And remember beverages with caffeine stimulate the body and act as diuretics, so they are double-trouble when trying to sleep.
Here’s to a great night’s rest!