Let’s all agree on one thing – sleep is one of the great mysteries of life. Well, we still don’t understand exactly why we sleep – although we are learning more about it every day. We do know, however, that good sleep is one of the cornerstones of health. Six to eight hours per night seems to be the optimal amount of sleep for most adults, and too much or too little can have adverse effects on your health. Sleep deprivation is such a chronic condition these days that you might not even realize you suffer from it. Science has now established that a sleep deficit can have serious, far reaching effects on your health. For example, interrupted or impaired sleep can:
- Dramatically weaken your immune system
- Accelerate tumor growth—tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions
- Cause a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you’ve already eaten, which can wreak havoc on your weight
- Seriously impair your memory; even a single night of poor sleep—meaning sleeping only 4 to 6 hours—can impact your ability to think clearly the next day
- Impair your performance on physical or mental tasks, and decrease your problem solving ability
The experts also say that sleep is essential for a healthy heart. People who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits. One study that examined data from 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. It’s not completely clear why less sleep is detrimental to heart health, but researchers understand that sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation.
How to improve your sleep – useful tips:
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 to 68 degrees.
- Get to bed as early as possible. Your body does a majority of its recharging between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.
- Go to the bathroom right before bed. This will reduce the chances that you’ll wake up to go in the middle of the night.
- Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan needed for your melatonin and serotonin production.
- Also eat a small piece of fruit. This can help the tryptophan cross your blood-brain barrier.