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Sleep is Important to Health

March is national sleep awareness and nutrition month. They are very much linked together! One out of three people suffer from poor sleep. Nearly 40% of adults report falling asleep during the day unintentionally at least once a month. Lack of quality sleep does more than make one cranky and forgetful, lack of sleep puts one at risk of inflammation, obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, depression, and shortens one’s life expectancy. It makes it difficult to make decisions, solve problems, regulate emotions, and cope with change. Driving while sleep deprived or drowsy puts one at a greater risk of accidents. It may be tempting to stay up later for reading or watching TV, but knowing why it is so important to have an earlier bed time habit for quality sleep can be helpful to establish a regular routine for your health.

Our body goes into repair mode while we sleep, healing blood vessels and the heart. Only while we sleep does our brain goes through detoxing from the day’s activity.  That’s why the lack of it puts us in a brain fog. It is best to not eat after 7pm and to avoid sugary desserts. If there isn’t sugar in the bloodstream, human growth hormone is released during sleep which helps slow aging. Making our body have to work at digestion while it’s time to sleep can interfere with breathing (snoring, apnea) and excess sugar with body temperature control. Our body needs to go through stages of sleep, and if we don’t, we may wake up feeling tired, stressed, and out of it.

Experts say following our natural circadian rhythm, namely going to sleep soon after sundown and waking around sunrise is best. One will have a better quality 7-8 hours of sleep going to bed at 10PM, rather than going to bed at midnight. A part of getting ready for quality sleep is turning off electronic devices an hour before going to bed, for the lighting (which has the sunlight spectrum) and content can be stimulating. Staying up later when the body wants to sleep will cause the body to release the stress hormone cortisol, which causes weight gain. If we are tired, we tend to eat more during the day because of a lack of the hormone leptin (the hormone that makes one feel full).

Here are some tips:

  • Establish the same time of going to bed and waking up every day. On the weekends, try to limit the difference to be one hour. Sleeping in can disrupt the body’s internal clock for a few days.
  • Create a routine to relax before getting into bed. Turn off electronics at least an hour before.
  • Sleep in a quiet, cool, dark room.
  • Spend time outside every day. Get exercise.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Eat your last meal hours before bedtime. A cup of coffee can take 8 hours for the body to try to get rid of the stimulating drug caffeine. Smoking also interferes with getting good sleep.
  • If you are having trouble falling asleep, do something else like read, pray, listen to nature sounds until you feel tired.

Sleep helps boost our immune system, improves mood, helps us be able to think, be alert, and slow the process of aging and weight gain. Nutrition also plays a part of getting good quality sleep. Imagine every day waking up refreshed!  There will be a panel of experts giving advice on how improve sleep on Saturday, March 30th on a special Facebook event. Please send an email if you would like to be invited to the private Facebook page, Sleep and the Nutrition Link.

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel, who even at night directs my heart. Psalm 16:7

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