We spend a third of lives sleeping. The recommended 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night is required for refreshing our mind. Neuroscientists have discovered that it is in our sleep that our brain’s specialized networks called the glymphatic system work hard to clear the waste products called the Amyloid B proteins. The rapid clearance of Amyloid B proteins is 60% more productive in sleep possibly preventing us from developing Alzheimer’s disease as we age.
Getting the right amount sleep each night is a feasible lifestyle modification to manage weight and works very well in conjunction with other lifestyle modification such as counting calories and staying active.
Evidence suggests that a restful night sleep can lead to better food choices the following day by fighting off cravings for junk food. Sleep deprivation alters the levels of the two hormones ghrelin and leptin that control our appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone produced in our gut that promotes hunger and is responsible for producing a sense of pleasure associated with eating. When sleep duration decreases the ghrelin production increases causing our appetite to increase. Leptin is a chemical produced by fat cells that produces a feeling of fullness and when sleep duration decreases leptin levels decreases masking the feeling of fullness and making us want to eat more.
Research shows that poor quality sleep is directly linked to increased risk of heart attacks, increased blood pressure, and stroke, increased risk of depression and worsening of anxiety. Getting more sleep also helps to improve our body’s immunity against viruses and bacteria.
Here are few healthy sleep habits that you can incorporate to improve the quality of your sleep:
- Follow a strict sleep schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same times every day even on the days that you are off work.
- Practice relaxing and calming activity before bed time such as reading a book, meditation, deep breathing or even taking a warm shower.
- Exercise regularly – CDC recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 days a week or 15 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise 5 days a week. It is best is to exercise in the mornings or afternoon, but if you have to exercise in the evening do it at least 3 hours before your bed time.
- Pay attention to your sleep environment – make sure your mattress is comfortable and you have a comfortable and a supportive pillow. It is best to sleep in a quiet room, free from light with a comfortable room temperature setting. Use black out curtains or eye masks to ward off light if needed.
- Most importantly keep all the electronic gadgets such as laptop computers, iPad, and smart phones away from the sleep environment. Avoid screen times at least 30 minutes to an hour before your bed time.
If you still have trouble with sleeping restfully please discuss the matter with a sleep professional. Use a sleep diary to journal the pattern of your sleep and discuss it with your doctor.
See the TED Talk below for more on why sleep is important:
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