Sleep glorious sleep. We all know how it feels when we get a truly good night’s kip. We wake, bound out of bed with limitless energy and feel like we can take on the entire world. Life is great!
On the other hand, when we have a night of tossing and turning we can barely find the power to crawl out from under the sheets come morning time. We’re grumpy, suffer from mood swings, crave junk food and find it a struggle to make it until the end of the day. Life sucks!
While everyone instinctively knows sleep is good for us, few people genuinely understand quite how powerful it is like the Sleep Advisor crew do.
The chronically sleep-deprived have an increased risk of a whole range of conditions and ailments, both physical and mental. Consistently getting less than 7 hours a night raises the risk of anxiety, stress, depression, strokes, epilepsy, diabetes, heart attacks and even Alzheimer’s disease. Yikes!
Below we take a look at just a few of the almost countless ways a good night’s sleep helps you to maintain a healthy body and mind.
Sleep, hormones and weight gain
You’ve probably heard that a healthy diet and regular exercise are the two pillars of a healthy body. And that’s completely true. What’s less well known is that the foundation on which these two pillars stand and fall is a good night’s rest.
If you’re sleeping badly no amount of pushups and wheatgrass smoothies are going to keep you in tip top shape.
Poor sleep shares a strong correlation with weight gain, obesity and even diabetes. Even if we put aside the fact that if you sleep badly you’re not going to have the energy for exercise, the reasons for this link are still manyfold.
For starters, good sleep helps us control our cravings and how large our appetite is. Three very important hormones, serotonin, ghrelin and leptin, are all regulated while we sleep. Also known as the ‘happy hormone’, the ‘fat hormone’ and the ‘obesity hormone’ respectively.
If our sleep is broken these powerful neurotransmitters become unbalanced and begin to send out conflicting signals which influence the types of food we crave and how big our appetite is.
That’s why when we’ve had a bad night we tend to reach for the syrupy stack of pancakes and not the muesli.
Sleep, fat cells and insulin resistance
Secondly, being overly tired actually impacts the way the very cells within our body behave.
Researchers have discovered when tired, our fat cells respond up to 30% less effectively to the messages they receive from the hormone insulin, a word that may be familiar to any of you out there who know anything about diabetes.
Insulin tells our body what to do with the food we eat, whether to burn it as energy or store it for later. When they are tired our fat cells seem to listen less intently to the messages insulin sends and as a result they become less proficient at removing fatty acids and lipids from the bloodstream.
Instead of burning this fat as energy, it’s instead stored in places it shouldn’t be such as our body tissue. Thus making us porkier. Bummer!
What’s worse when this tissue happens to be our liver we have an increased risk of developing full blown insulin resistant type 2 diabetes. Double bummer!
Sleep and our immune system
As well as their expanding waistlines, the chronically sleep deprived, which alarmingly includes around a third of the American population, are at a much greater risk of succumbing to viruses and infections. Furthermore, the same individuals are much slower to bounce back from such conditions once they hit.
Simply put, if you sleep badly you are going to get sick more and for longer. Sorry!
The reason for this is simple. While we lie comatose in bed, dreaming of marrying Chris Hemsworth, our body is hard at work replenishing it’s resources for another day of punishment ahead. A whole host of important processes take place such as the production of T-cells. You may remember these little fellas from biology class, they are the chaps who patrol our body guarding us from foreign invaders and infection.
When we sleep poorly our body produces less T-cells and our immune system is weakened and our defenses lowered as a consequence. In the short term this means an increase in colds and flus, in the long term it means an increased risk of almost everything. And I mean everything. From diabetes, to high blood pressure, strokes, heart disease and even heart attacks. Argh! Time for bed me thinks.
Getting 7 – 9 hours a night, every night, means you are giving your immune system sufficient support to be able to do its job. Sleeping well keeps you stronger and healthier for longer, meaning you can fight off illness and keep your body in much healthier shape. Plus it will help you keep the weight off!
Well, I hope I haven’t scared you too much. Hopefully just enough to pass on the importance of treating your bedtimes with the respect they deserve. Here’s to sweet dreams tonight and a healthy, happy and long life ahead!