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The Importance of Sleep

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Most adults require anywhere from 7-8 hours of sleep. Constantly undershooting this or not sleeping well is called sleep deficiency. Sleep deficiency is a major cause of health issues. Sleep deficiency can be a number of things:

• Not sleeping enough
• Irregular sleep hours
• Not sleeping well (poor quality sleep)

Most people fall under one or more of these categories! Quickly take a moment to think which may apply to you. Getting enough of the right kind of sleep can improve your mental and physical health, as well as keeping you safe and improving your quality of life.

As with all things in the body, there can are numerous causes for one disease to occur. Prolonged sleep deficiency can be a cause heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and more. This is because your body heals while it is asleep. So not enough sleep means you are constantly living in a state of your body trying to catch up. Not enough quality sleep could mean that you feel rested, but other things are not fully recovered in your body.

Sleep deficiency can also pay a role in the kinds of foods you eat and how hungry you are. Your ability to fight off cravings is limited when you lack sleep. When you are low on seep your hormones get all out of whack: your Ghrelin levels are high and your Leptin levels are low. This means that you feel more hungry than if you had adequate sleep. And when you feel more hungry you are less likely to choose healthier options for snacks and meals. This can lead you through a vicious cycle of eating sugary of high caffeine foods that cause you to not be able to sleep, and then your Ghrelin levels are high again!

Another side effect of sleep deficiency is the ability for your immune system to function properly. When you do not provide your body with enough of the right kind of sleep you are allowing your “walls” to be down; during a period of constant sleep deficiency you may find yourself being sick more often than periods of more rest.

There are MANY other factors that can arise if you are in a constant state of sleep deficiency. So how do you know if you aren’t getting enough sleep? Some people are more likely to have a symptom of sleep deficiency:

• Shift workers, or someone who works during hours they normally sleep
• Someone who abuses drugs or alcohol to stay awake
• A person who chooses not to leave enough time to sleep (ie staying out with friends, staying awake to watch a favorite TV show instead of taping it, etc)
• Undiagnosed stress, anxiety or sleep problems
• Someone who has a medical condition or requires medicine that interfere with sleep

You may feel constantly tired, or feel able to fall asleep in an hour of sitting in traffic/a long drive. You may feel constantly angry/sad without knowing why. Or your motivation may be lacking. Does one of these symptoms speak out to you? What if you could fix the symptom with simply getting enough quality sleep?

Some useful habits to improve your quality or length of sleep are:

• Try your best to go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day (even on weekends)
• Avoid large meals two hours before bed time
• Have your room be as dark and as cool as possible to allow your body the best scenarios to stay asleep in
• Use relaxation tools that work for you!

Coach Heidi