How Well Do You Sleep?

 

More people than ever are having troubles with sleep. Getting to sleep, staying asleep, having enough sleep and etc… Research has shown that our sleep habits can make a huge difference in the amount and quality of the sleep we experience.
If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter you can definitely attest to the fact that getting sleep is important, but why? What does sleep really do for us?
For a start, when our bodies are asleep, this is when the body’s cells get to work on healing, repairing and fixing issues. I like to call sleep “Vitamin S” because it really does act like a supplement. Getting enough good sleep each night can measurably improve things like your eye-hand coordination and maintenance of your muscle strength. 
Research shows a correlation between people who sleep less than 7 hours a night and an increased potential to be overweight or obese. Why is this so? Well If you think about it, the body needs a certain amount of good sleep to go through all of its normal hormonal processes. The very hormones that directly affect our appetite, Ghrelin and Leptin, can easily be disrupted with a lack of sleep. So when you are not getting a decent amount of quality sleep, you may find yourself feeling hungrier or having cravings which could then lead to overconsumption of food.
Sleep is also the first line of defense against disease causing inflammation in the body. The reason we want to curl up in bed and rest when we have a flu or cold is because the body needs that sleep time to build your immunity back up. If you are suffering from any kind of illness or chronic condition, getting quality sleep should be the first thing on your to-do list. 
Have you noticed that when you’re overly tired and lacking in sleep it can be harder to remember things? Sleep boosts our memory and cognitive functioning abilities. Just like the rest of the body, the brain needs the time when we sleep to restore itself.
Because sleep is so obviously important for our bodies to perform at their best, what steps can we take to make sure that we are getting the best sleep possible?

Minimizing light exposure. In order for your body to have properly  regulated sleep-wake cycles, your Melatonin levels need to be at a certain level. Melatonin is a very important hormone when it comes to preparing your body for quality sleep. Light exposure, however, can reduce Melatonin levels. Unfortunately, a lot of people happen to engage in activities right before bed that involve light exposure like TV watching, Video game playing, or looking at a phone or computer screen. Some ways to increase your natural Melatonin production are making sure your room is as dark as possible when you are ready for sleep, and trying to avoid electronics before bed or using special glasses (Blue Light Glasses) to combat the light exposure while using screens.

Magnesium. Taking a Magnesium supplement before bed or using Epsom salts bath or transdermal magnesium oil application can help get your body ready for sleep. Magnesium plays an important role for the function of GABA receptors, which are all over the body in the nervous system. As a calming neurotransmitter, GABA helps the brain, in a sense to “switch off” and is in a balancing act with glutamate, which conversely keeps you up with your brain most certainly “switched on” and likely racing. For sleep you need GABA to be more prominent than glutamate, and that’s where the Magnesium will most definitely help you out.

Movement! Exercising or being active throughout the day can also help your body to feel sufficiently tired at the end of the day and more ready for a good night’s sleep.

Getting enough. 7-9 hours is the healthy range recommended for most adults but be honest with yourself, if you know you really need 9 hours and are trying to get by on 7, you may be short changing your health.

Alcohol before bed- be cautious! There was a recent review of 27 different studies that found that alcohol does not improve sleep quality and although it may help people to fall asleep more quickly, it can actually decrease the amount of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is the restorative part of sleep which usually occurs about 90 minutes into sleep. To quote Irshaad Ebrahim, the Medical Director of The London Sleep Centre in the UK, “Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night.”

Being cool enough. Lowered body temperature can help induce sleep and an elevated one can impede sleep. As we start to go to sleep the body naturally reduces our body temperature by a couple degrees F and uses the energy that would have been spent on keeping the body temperature higher on other restorative activities like healing and repairing cells. Becoming overheated in the night can make you more restless and make continual quality sleep more difficult to come by.

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