10 very good reasons why you need your sleep

Added March 5, 2011, Under: Health, New Moms, Parents

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There is nothing worse than being woken up unnecessarily from a good deep sleep. Of course parents are invariably sleep deprived when they have a new baby in the family and some children continue to wake up their parents even when they are no longer young babies. We all need uninterrupted, good quality sleep – it is especially important for our health. This is why insomnia and restless leg syndrome (RLS) can be so stressful.

1. Sleep keeps our hearts healthy. Lack of sleep has been linked with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are possible risk factors for heart disease and stroke. So our hearts will be healthier if we can get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each and every night.

2. Sleep could prevent cancer. Studies have shown that those who work a late shift have a higher risk of breast and colon cancer. It is thought that this is because night shift works have different levels of melatonin when they are exposed to light at night. Melatonin is the hormone that makes us sleepy in the first place and it is also considered to be a protection against cancer by suppressing the growth of tumors. When shift workers work at night, obviously in artificial light, this light exposure at night reduces the levels of melatonin in their systems. This is why those who sleep at night, whatever their age, should be in a darkened room to ensure the production of this vital melatonin.

3. Good sleep reduces our stress. If our bodies are sleep deprived, this causes stress so that all our body’s functions are on high alert. Such a state can increase blood pressure and the production of stress hormones adding to risk factors for heart attacks and strokes.

4. Sleep reduces inflammation in our bodies. This is important as inflammation is thought to be one of the causes of deterioration in the health of our bodies as we age. Any increase in our stress hormones because lack of sleep can raise the level of inflammation. As well as heart-related conditions, this can also be a risk factor for cancer and diabetes.

5. Sleep makes us feel more alert. A good night’s sleep means you start the new day feeling more energized and ready to go. If you are busy and active all day long, you will sleep well the next night too. It has a domino effect.

6. Sleep bolsters our memories. When we sleep and dream, a process called memory consolidation occurs, so if we can get a night of good quality sleep, this will help us to remember and process things better the next day.

7. Sleep can even help us to lose weight. This is good news for many of us because researchers have found that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. The reason is probably that the lack of sleep impacts the balance of hormones in our body, affectting our appetitie.

8. Naps can make us smarter. Dont be embarrassed if you feel the need to have a nap during ghe day as this can be an effective and refreshing alternative to caffeine, while protecting our health and making us more productive. In addition, napping can improve our memory, cognitive function and mood.

9. Sleep may reduce our risk for depression. This is because sleep impacts many of the chemicals in our bodies such as serotonin. If we have a deficiency in serotonin we are more likely to suffer from depression.

10. Sleep helps our body repair itself. During sleep, our bodies repair the damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays and any other harmful exposures. This is because our cells produce more protein when we sleep, forming the building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair damage.

Don’t be tempted to take short cuts on those hours of sleep you need – it is too important for your health.

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