The importance of sleep: Quantity and quality of shut eye impacts health, memory
By Wendy M. Henrichs
Board Certified Chiropractic Pediatrician and Nutrition Counselor
A good night sleep is just as important to your overall health as exercising and eating right. It is a key pillar in your overall health and well-being. Studies show that seven to eight hours of sleep is what is needed. Sleep is when you repair, regenerate and when your tissues heal.
A decrease in duration of sleep is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. Lack of sleep can affect hormone balance, especially the hormones that stimulate and suppress your appetite. Ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, increases when you are deprived of sleep. On the flip side, leptin the hormone that suppresses appetite decreases when you are sleep deprived. You are likely to eat less when you get adequate and good quality sleep.
You have probably noticed that your ability to concentrate and remember things is not as good after a sleepless night. In fact, poor quality and decreased quantity of sleep, decreases your ability to learn and make memories by at least 40%. Lack of sleep can change the physical structure of your brain, impairing brain function. Getting a good night’s sleep will enhance memory and maximize your ability to problem solve. Cognitive decline associated with aging can also be improved with better quality sleep.
Sleep deprivation increases the inflammatory response in your tissues and increases cell damage. There is an increased incidence of inflammatory bowel disease in those who are sleep deprived. Inflammation also increases your risk for stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Sleep deprivation has a significant effect on your immune system and ability to fight infections and disease. T killer cells, your first line of defense, are reduced by 70% after one night of poor sleep (four hours or less). That is a significant deficiency in immune function which is being linked to certain forms of cancer such as bowel, prostate and breast cancers. If you want to stay healthy during cold and flu season, along with decreasing your risk for some cancers, then sleep is paramount.
Sleep is extremely important for recovery from exercise and athletics. There is tissue breakdown with exercise, training, and sports activities. The tissue damage when healed will make you stronger and faster. If you do not get adequate rest, then you will not recover fully from the physical activity.
These are just some of the effects of sleep on your body. Here are some ways to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Keep it Regular: Have you ever felt groggy after “sleeping in?” Your biorhythms do not discern as to whether it is Friday night or Sunday night. If you want to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep, then go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This is true for weekends as well.
Cool is King: Have you ever noticed it is easier to fall asleep when it is cool versus hot? (The dog days of summer come into my mind) That is because your core body temperature needs to drop a few degrees to fall asleep and stay asleep. The optimal temperature to fall asleep and stay asleep is 65 degrees. Turn your furnace down or program it to cool down a few hours before you turn in.
Mood Lighting: Watching TV, playing games on your device or surfing through social media right before bedtime can make it more challenging to fall asleep. The light from television and devices is stimulating to your brain making it more difficult to shut down for sleep. Turn off all electronics and dim the lights at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Reading a good book, the traditional kind, is still okay.
Eliminate Post-Supper Snacking: Eating less than two hours before bedtime can create sleep challenges. Digestion is a labor-intensive activity making it a challenge for you to get into a deep sleep. Brushing your teeth after supper can help eliminate evening snacking. Not only will your sleep improve, but your waistline will as well.
Get Some Exercise: Exercise has several positive effects including the release of endorphins, your happy chemicals. Endorphins make you feel more relaxed which can aid in falling asleep. Exercise after supper, but at least two hours before bed, will raise your body temperature. The drop in body temperature after you stop exercising will aid in falling asleep.
Improving the quantity and quality of your sleep will aid in decreasing inflammation and pain and make it easier to manage your weight. Getting adequate sleep will increase your ability to remember and learn new things. Better sleep will increase your ability to fight infection, chronic disease and some forms of cancer. Sleep will help you recover from physical activity and athletics. Getting enough sleep can not only aid in longevity, but a better quality of life along the way.
Dr. Wendy Henrichs is a board certified chiropractor and nutrition counselor at Timber Land Chiropractic in Rhinelander. For a complimentary chiropractic, nutrition or lifestyle counseling consultation, visit TimberlandChiropractic.com, Facebook, or call 715-362-4852.