When we wake up after a good night’s sleep, our body feels rested, our outlook is positive and we feel better prepared to face the day. That alone should encourage us to be more mindful of getting enough rest. But if you’re not convinced, here are few of the many healthy benefits of sleep.
Sleep Restores the Body
Deep REM sleep allows growth hormone release to promote overall strength and vitality in all body tissues, including bone, muscle and organs. The growth hormone is especially active during childhood and puberty. While it reduces sharply in adults, sleep allows the growth hormone to release in rhythmic cycles to restore itself from stress and other toxins the body is exposed to during the day.
Sleep Reduces Illness and Disease
Our body’s ability to rejuvenate during the sleep cycle greatly affects our immune system. While our body is resting during sleep, the immune system is working to protect the body and fight against possible disease. Conversely, a lack of sleep influences a depressed immune system which opens up the potential for harmful germs to attack our system.
Sleep Reduces Stress
As our body prepares for sleep, it releases the calming hormones – serotonin and melatonin. Not only do these hormones help us to relax, but they cause the stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol – to deplete. However, sleep deprivation puts our body in a state of stress by releasing the adrenaline and cortisol hormones. It can be detrimental to our health when these hormones are pumping through our body too frequently. When we sleep, we reduce stress in our body by improving the balance of the calming and stress hormone which allows our adrenal glands to rest.
Sleep Improves Memory Function
Our brain organizes, sorts and stores the events of the past day while we sleep, helping us make connections and create links so we can recall easier at a later time. This is especially helpful for students because if they study a little every day, the natural process of sleep will help to better understand and retain the information.
Sleep Helps Control Weight
Lack of sleep affects the balance of hormones in our body, gherlin and leptin, important for regulating appetite. So when these hormones are out of balance from lack of sleep, our appetite increases, making us eat more than we would normally when we’ve had enough sleep.
Sleep Balances Emotions
Sleep allows our brain a chance to restore hormone and chemical levels. With these levels in balance, both our mind and body are refreshed and rejuvenated, allowing us to approach situations more rationally so we’re more equipped to handle life’s stresses throughout the day.
Tips for Creating Healthy Sleep Habits
Make sleep a priority: Establish sleep as an appointment in your schedule. Say no to events that might interfere with your sleep schedule.
Establish a routine: Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, regardless of the day of the week or if you've had a rough night's sleep.
Create Calming Rituals: It’s important to let your body unwind before you go to sleep. Try to avoid loud noises, electronic devices and caffeine or sugar before bed time. Instead, drink a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk, take a warm bath or read a book for a few minutes before turning off the light. Give your mind and body some time to relax as it prepares for sleep.
Let go of the Chatter in Your Head: Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the events of the day, so we have difficulty shutting off our thoughts in order to sleep. Try to let go of your worries so they don’t interfere with sleep. Maybe write down your thoughts in a journal to free your mind. Perhaps focusing on the things that happened that brought gratitude. Or try a relaxing Meditation ritual. Whatever helps you best relax your mind to fall asleep.
Exercise: Participating in physical activity during the day will help you sleep at night. But avoid strenuous exercise and activity within 4 hours of going to bed so your body will be able to relax in time for sleep. Perhaps a calming restorative yoga practice would help relax your body.
Eat Healthy Foods: Avoid large meals before bed time. Digesting a large meal will make it more difficult to fall asleep. Also, avoid foods with sugar, caffeine which act as stimulants and affect the quality of sleep.
Design a Restful Bedroom: Your bedroom should be your sanctuary. The environment should instill calm when you enter. Choose soothing colors that encourage sleep. Clear out any unnecessary clutter and distractions. Your TV, computer and work desk should be designated to another room.