Why You Need Sleep to Restore Your Body

Many of my clients and attendees at my retreats tell me they're so busy and stressed, they sleep around six hours per night; but that's OK right? Wrong. Evidence on the biochemical changes that occur during sleep is mounting, meaning sleep is more important than we ever realised!

I asked one of the experts to tell all of you about the importance of sleep - check it out!

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Sleep provides time to heal, recharge and restore the body, yet many people view rest as a luxury rather than a necessity. Many adults don't sleep the recommended seven hours each night. By making sleep a priority and developing good sleep hygiene, you can get the restorative sleep you need to be physically and mentally at your best.

Sleep Deprivation Puts a Stop to Your Healing Abilities

The body has amazing abilities to heal and restore itself but needs time in which to do it. A study published in Sleep Medicine measured the levels of proteins necessary for muscle recovery and correlated it to the subjects’ amount of sleep. Lack of sleep suppressed showed a slower healing process in all aspects of your biology.

The immune system also takes a serious hit during sleep deprivation.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University explored the effects of sleep deprivation on the immune system by examining susceptibility to the common cold. Sleep deprived people were more likely to catch a cold.

Those that slept less than seven hours were nearly three times as likely to get sick.

It wasn’t just how much time they slept but the quality of their sleep as well. Participants who frequently woke during the night were also more susceptible to illness. The immune system needs rest to not only fight off infection but to recharge itself for full daytime functionality.

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How to Get Better, More Restorative Sleep

The benefits of sleep come from spending enough hours in bed and from high-quality sleep. You can improve the restorative nature of your sleep by developing good sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene means that you:

  • Keep a Consistent Sleep-Wake Schedule 

Your body relies on regular 24-hour biological and physiological cycles called circadian rhythms to control your sleep-wake cycle. By keeping a consistent sleep-wake schedule, that means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, you acclimate your brain and body to your natural rhythms. Consequently, the brain will release sleep hormones automatically because it knows what time you need to fall asleep.

  • Develop a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Bedtime routines are particularly important for those who have a hard time falling asleep. A routine can trigger the release of sleep hormones and provide time to relieve any stress or tension before bed. It should include activities that calm and relax you. Try to perform your bedtime routine at the same time and in the same order each day.  

  • Turn Off Screens Early

The bright light from televisions and smartphones can suppress sleep hormones, making it hard to fall asleep. Try shutting them off at least two to three hours before bed to prevent a sleep delay.

  • Eat Healthy, Regularly Spaced Meals

A well-balanced diet helps improve all aspects of your life. However, it’s not just what you eat but when you eat it that affects your sleep-wake cycle. Try to eat at the same times each day and keep your meals regularly spaced. Avoid heavy high-fat foods close to bedtime.

Sleep gives your body the time it needs to restore and heal itself. When you make sleep a priority, you’re giving yourself a natural boost to your mental and physical health.

About this Guest author:

Samantha (Sam) Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favourite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.