Kitchener Naturopath discusses the Importance of Sleep

Sleep – A Pillar of Good Health

Have your ever felt there just weren’t enough hours in the day?  Most of us feel pressure from our boss, our partner, our coach, our kids and even ourselves to accomplish more in a day.  We’re tempted by multiple diversions such as the smartphone on the bedside table.  Sadly, sleep is often the first thing we squeeze out of our schedule.   And the reality is that we pay a huge price for this.  The short-term and long-term effects of sleep deprivation are surprising.  In fact, good sleep is so impactful that athletes who want to improve their performance could simply increase the amount of sleep they get.

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life.  Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety.  During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.

Some would say that sleep is more important than food.  That’s right!  You can survive with limited or no food for weeks, but sleep deprivation is catastrophic for your mind and body.  That’s why it has been used as a form of torture by the military for centuries.

Short-term effects of sleep deprivation:

Safety risks – Lack of sleep can impair judgement leading to occupational health problems.  Many accidents occur in the workplace when employees are sleep deprived.  Automobile accidents are also more frequent when drivers are sleep deprived.  Judgement is impaired as are reaction times.

Emotional health risks – Those lacking sleep may feel more anxious and distractible.  They may suffer memory and cognitive impairment, and stressed relationships.  They’re often impatient and lack concentration.  Children and teens who lack sleep may have problems getting along with others.  They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, or lack motivation.  They may have difficulty paying attention and may get lower grades and feel stressed.

Long-term effects of sleep deprivation:

Obesity – Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same parts of the brain.  If you’re sleepy, certain hormones in your blood increase and those are the same hormones that drive appetite.  Consequently, lack of sleep can lead to obesity.  In fact a director of the Centre for Sleep and Circadian Biology at Northwestern University predicts “an increase in sleep duration from 7 or 8 hours to 10 could lower the prevalence of adolescent obesity by four percent.”  The connection is that clear.

Inflammation and disease – Sleep deprivation leads to an increase in blood levels of inflammatory proteins.  This inflammation is linked to heart disease, stoke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging.

Cardiovascular disease – Sleep deprivation has been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels and irregular heartbeat.

Learning and memory – Sleep helps the brain deal with new information through a process called memory consolidation.  Without required sleelp, this consolidation does not occur.  Studies show that people who sleep after learning a task will do better on later tests.  Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions and be more creative.

Disease – Sleep deprivation alters immune function.  Keeping up with sleep may help fight cancer.

Depression – studies show that people with sleep apnea (where sleep is constantly interrupted) were twice as likely to develop depression.

Healthy Growth and Development – Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens.  This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens and adults.  Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.

In summary, the scientific evidence is mounting that getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night is having wide-ranging consequences for our bodies, our minds and especially on the health of our children.  Make time to sleep in order to protect your health and well-being now and in the future!

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