The Importance of Sleep for your Health & Healing
Many of us understand that we should be getting more sleep for greater health benefits , but may not appreciate exactly why and how.
A few reasons why good, restful sleep is so important... :
1. Weight Maintenance or Loss Numerous studies have associated short sleep, (defined as sleeping fewer than 7 hours per night), with a greater risk of weight gain. The effect of sleep on weight gain is believed to be affected by a few reason including hormones and motivation to exercise.
Ghrelin is a hormone that makes us feel hungry while leptin makes us feel full. Sleep deprivation increases levels of ghrelin and decreases levels of leptin. This may cause us to feel hungrier and overeat. This is supported by various studies that have shown that sleep-deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories.
2. Heart Health Low sleep quality and duration may increase your risk of developing heart disease. An analysis of 19 studies found that sleeping fewer than 7 hours per day resulted in a 13% increased risk of death from heart disease. Short sleep also appears to increase the risk of high blood pressure. In fact, one study found that people who slept fewer than 5 hours per night had a 61% higher risk of developing high blood pressure than those who slept for 7 hours.
3. Immune system strength During sleep, your body releases cytokines, which are essential for the regulation of the immune system. Cytokines are required in increased amounts when you are attacked by a pathogen or are under stress. The level of cytokines increase during sleep, and therefore lack of sleep hinders the body's ability to fight infections. This is also a reason why the body tends to sleep more while suffering from any infection.
4. Mental Health Mental health concerns, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. One study in 2,672 participants found that those with anxiety and depression were more likely to report poorer sleep scores than those without anxiety and depression.
In other studies, people with sleeping disorders i.e. insomnia or destructive sleep apnea were noted to have a statistically significant correlation to poor mental health status.
5.Healing Properties & Inflammation Management Lastly, but almost most importantly for Pilates Sante clients, poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation in the body. Sleep loss, especially from disturbed sleep, is known to activate inflammatory signaling pathways and lead to higher levels of undesirable markers of inflammation, like interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein limiting healing of injury or pathology in the body.
So what are some ways we can try to improve our sleep quality ?
1. Increase Bright Light Exposure During the Day Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm. It affects your brain, body, and hormones, helping you stay awake and telling your body when it is time to sleep. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep a healthy circadian rhythm. This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration.
2. Reduce Blue Light Exposure in the Evenings Blue light -- which electronic devices like smartphones and computers emit in large amounts —tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. This reduces hormones such as melatonin, which help you relax and get deep sleep. There are several popular methods you can use to reduce night blue light exposure such as wearing glasses that block blue light & limiting use for phones, computers, and TV at least 2 hrs before bed.
3. Do not Consume Caffeine at Later Periods in the Day Caffeine stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night. It can stay elevated in your blood for 6 to 8 hours! Therefore, drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages after 3 to 4 p.m. is not recommended, especially if you are sensitive to caffeine or have trouble sleeping.
4. Limit Alcohol Consumption Having a couple of drinks at night can negatively affect your sleep and hormones. It alters nighttime melatonin production, which plays a key role in your body’s circadian rhythm. Alcohol is known to cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns.
5. Try to Sleep & Wake at Consistent Times Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset. Irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, which signal your brain to sleep. Being consistent with your sleep & waking times can aid long-term sleep quality.
If none of the above measures are helping your sleep hygiene, please consider seeing a healthcare provider for a sleep evaluation. There are many common conditions that can cause poor sleep, including sleep apnea.
"I have worked with a variety of physical therapists, PTAs & instructors. ALL Amazing ! My strength has improved & I have most of my mobility back ." ~ Karen K.