When it comes to maintaining our health, we are not as responsible as we perhaps should be.
Sure, we do healthy things for our physical body, like taking brain boosters to aid in all the good stuff our body needs, and we try to stay hydrated as much as possible throughout the day. And while we are definitely becoming more aware of aspects of our health like our diet, and the impact of daily physical movement, it is increasingly apparent that there is not enough awareness about the genuine impact that lack of sleep has on the human body. The average person these days is busier than ever, and so finding the time to get everything done and then get a good night’s sleep unfortunately is not always something we feel is possible. We have all felt the difference when we get a solid 6-8 hours, as opposed to 1-4 hours’ sleep, but we usually do not see that increase in energy as enough of a reason to kick bad habits when we hit the hay each night. Now, however, there is an increased focus on sleep as an important pillar of whole health, with new studies and more research being conducted every single day.
A new study has found that improper sleeping patterns are linked to the markers of heart disease. While it is true that this has been found in previous studies, this is the first study that measures the health of the arteries in the body in multiple ways, suggesting possible mechanisms for the connection at the same time. In this study, people were monitored as they slept, and then tested for multiple stressors and physical impactors. A lack of sleep appears to put stress on the body, which in turn raises the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol in the body can and does lead to inflammation, higher blood pressure, and poor glucose and metabolism. Each of these markers doubles as a contribution to heart risk. As such, too little sleep is linked to an increased risk of overall mortality, as well as an increase in the risk of diabetes, obesity, cognitive and memory function, and even anxiety and depression. In short, we need to be investing more time, energy, and importance on sleep.
Sleep helps to solidify our long-term memory. It is in fact one of the central functions of sleep. The brain is the organ in the body that benefits the most from our sleeping patterns, and little sleep is now known to interfere with critical brain processes, including memory procession. When we sleep, the brain clears out the “gunk” that builds up throughout our days and contributes to dementia risk. As such, a healthy night’s sleep inevitably deters this gunk from building up and sticking, thus lessening the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. It goes without saying that our bodies perform best when they are fuelled correctly, and sleep is one of the crucial fuels to our bodies (as well as diet, exercise, etc). Our bodies literally tell us when they are tired, so there is literally no excuse to be putting off sleep. We always have the next day to get things finished, but we only have a set amount of time every night to get in the right amount of sleep.
Sleep deprivation causes all kinds of health risks, and we finally have the studies and research to prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt. When we go to sleep every night, we should be actively encouraging our bodies to temporarily quieten, which is why so many people insist that meditation and yoga are incredibly beneficial for a healthy lifestyle. When we practice shutting the mind of and letting the thoughts flow through of their own will, rather than having to sift through each and every one of them as they come into our heads, we can drift to sleep easier, and experience a sounder sleep. Getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night might take some active and consistent practice, but we cannot afford not to instil that practice into our everyday schedules. Sleeping is something that fuels our body and rejuvenates us, gearing us up for the following day…we should be investing enough importance into it to allow it to do its job.
When it comes to maintaining a healthy body (both mentally and physically) we tend to think and address the issues that are obvious impactors more than the less obvious. Our diets, for example, have been proven for a long time to have a significant impact on our body’s whole health (and especially our physical health), and the same goes for the amount of exercise that we get daily. We want to be our healthiest selves, and yet we ignore some of the most important contributors to positive health, one of them being sleep. When we get a good night’s sleep, we feel the difference, and yet the next day when we are run off our feet, we sacrifice a few hours of sleep that next night in favour of staying on top of our busy schedules. This is something that has tremendous impact on our bodies and our whole health. Over the last few years, and especially this past year, new studies and various counts of research have shown that sleep is crucial to peak whole health, and there is no room for argument anymore…we need to get a good night’s sleep every night. Our bodies rely on it.