Even just a few nights of good sleep can have these kinds of results:
- Clearer thinking, with greater motivation and productivity;
- Improvement in digestion, stress, and energy levels;
- Balance of hormone levels;
- Acceleration of weight loss. Sleeping less than six hours per night increases the risk of obesity by 55%;
- Improvement in insulin resistance and health markers such as blood sugar levels and blood pressure;
- Reduction in inflammation and other symptoms of metabolic syndrome, such as heart disease and stroke.
Why is sleep such an important part of a healthy human body’s functions?
The power of sleep is in how our body systems are able to accomplish their normal duties fully only during this special time. These activities include repairing damaged cells and restoring the unique balance of chemicals in each. These activities don’t happen when sleep is impaired. This can result in reduced health of our body’s systems.
What’s getting in the way of quality sleep?
We now know that we mentally and emotionally respond to what we see in the world. Each reaction has a biochemical impact on our body’s hormone balance. Constant stimulation from electronic devices and stressful situations throughout the day affects this balance.
A lack of healthy movement can impair sleep. Joints become overstressed with too many hours sitting or in repetitive states, leaving muscles tense, stiff, painful, or restless. This also leaves us more injury-prone, having less motivation to move or exercise enough for our health.
Processed food and drinks overstress the body systems, including those that support quality sleep. Too much caffeine, alcohol, and of course sugar affect body chemistry and can impair sleep (along with other body functions). Overexposure to blue light from electronic screens or energy-efficient lighting directly affects how we’re able to sleep by suppression of the hormone melatonin and the circadian rhythm that regulates sleep.
These modern conditions have a huge effect on our body’s chemistry, how well we sleep, and thus the quality of the experience of being in our body when we’re awake.
Many of the best “hacks” for improvement of health markers work because they give your body ideal conditions to repair itself and thrive.
So what are these “conditions”? They are activities that improve the types of stimulation throughout the day and well before bedtime that allow enough time to wind down and get enough hours of sleep. They are also conditions that affect hormone balance which support rest. Here are some examples of improvements in types of activities which support quality sleep:
- Make time to sleep 7-9 hours per night with time before bed to wind down;
- Reduce screen time overall and bright light 2-3 hours before bed;
- Use blue light blocking screens or glasses at night, or during the night if a night shift worker exposed to electronic screens at night;
- Expose yourself to bright light during the day;
- Increase enjoyable movement or exercise–especially outdoors for the sunshine and fresh air–and to break up long periods of sitting or repetitive movement;
- Limit caffeine intake to before noon;
- Minimize sugar and processed food intake overall;
- Avoid eating before bedtime;
- Reduce alcohol intake several hours before bed;
- Be consistent with bedtimes;
- Practice stress management exercises such as journaling, meditation or meditative breathing, especially before sleep;
- Use a weighted blanket at night, especially if anxious or depressed;
- If using CPAP:
- Be sure you have a properly fitting mask and headgear
- If the pressure feels too high when trying to fall asleep, use the “ramp” mode
- Consider a specially designed, CPAP pillow