Why Sleep Is So Important
You may think that sleep is only valuable because it is when your body shuts down and does nothing, but that’s not actually true. So why is sleep so important? While we may appear to be doing very little, it turns out that sleep is a very active time when our bodies are busy processing, replenishing, and repairing. A lack of sleep can lead to many different problems.
Here are some of the main side effects of sleep deprivation:
Drowsiness, fogginess, and low motivation — These are probably the most obvious side effects from sleep loss, as most of us are familiar with the sluggish mind and body that follow a night or two of bad sleep. These symptoms leave us less creative, impair our concentration and problem-solving abilities, and can lower our sex drive.
Diminished memory — The brain uses sleep time to consolidate and store memories. We receive a lot of input during our waking hours, so our brains use the hours without input to sort and store information from short-term to long-term memory storage. Sleep loss can lead to increased forgetfulness and impaired learning.
Suppressed immunity — During sleep the immune system releases cytokines which go to work fighting infection and inflammation. These cytokines, along with antibodies and white blood cells are all reduced during periods of sleep loss, resulting in a less efficient immune system.
Increased hunger — When our body is less physically active it does not demand energy and therefore doesn’t send out chemicals to signal hunger. If we are not sleeping enough, we will find ourselves hungry more often, which can lead to overeating and weight gain. Some studies also show that sleep deprivation leads to an increase in the hormone, ghrelin, which stimulates the appetite.
Increased risk of heart disease and stroke — Studies show that people who chronically struggle with sleep deprivation have a much higher chance of suffering from high blood pressure, heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes. Sleep loss leads to higher levels of C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation and a factor in heart disease.
So now that we know why sleep is so important, lets take a look at what we can do to help our bodies get the sleep they need.
Practice good sleep hygiene — Sleep hygiene is the term used for the habits we develop to ensure a healthy sleep pattern. These habits include sticking to a regular sleep schedule, having a bedtime routine, avoiding stimulants later in the day, and fostering a good sleep space by having a comfortable mattress and pillow, and a quiet, cool, dark room.
Use natural supplements to aid sleep — There are a number of natural sleep supplements which help stimulate the calming sleep receptors in the brain:
- Magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system
- Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate circadian rhythms
- 5-HTP is a precursor to seratonin, which is a precursor to melatonin
- GABA activates calming neurotransmitters
- Chamomile and Valerian are mild sedative herbs
Don’t be fooled into thinking sleeping is an unnecessary break, but instead give sleep credit for how it’s contributing to your overall health. Turn out the lights and get to work.
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