8 Important Reasons to Get Enough Sleep

As the days get shorter, it is a good time to examine how everyday habits impact our wellbeing. We hear about the importance of diet and exercise, but there’s a lot more to leading a happy, healthy life.

My two favorite healthy habits are hydration and sleep. Without them, I feel an almost immediate impact on my mental acuity and mood. If I start feeling like I’m on the verge of getting sick, I increase my sleep and drink more water. Sometimes when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, the best cure is a 20-minute nap. If you can’t tell, I love sleep!

As you will read in today’s guest post from Dr. Sult, sleep is not a luxury or indulgence – rather, sleep is vital to our physical and mental health. If you ever doubted the need for shut-eye, his 8 important reasons to get enough sleep will change your mind.

Dr. Tom Sult is board-certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He practices functional medicine and strives to find the fundamental cause of health issues. Dr. Sult is also an inspirational speaker and author of Just Be Well: A Book For Seekers of Vibrant Health. For more information about Tom and the Just Be Well Movement, click here.

Sleep. Our bodies crave it, but most of us don’t get as much of it as we need. The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but according to a 2013 Gallup poll, 40 percent of Americans get less than that. That’s over 125 million people operating in a sleep deficit, with nearly half of them experiencing chronic sleep problems.

Many of us underestimate the body’s need for sleep, especially since we’re all so busy. With so much to be done with work, family and personal endeavors, we feel the pressure of getting it all done within sixteen hours a day. So we reduce our sleep time to fit more activities in.

But sleep is more than an indulgence.

Our bodies need it, and when we chronically short-change ourselves of sleep, it shows up in our health.

Here are 8 important reasons to get enough sleep:

  1. The body uses sleep as a time to repair cells. One study found that a sleeping brain produced cells that repair and grow myelin, the fatty tissue that surrounds nerve cells and gets damaged in diseases like multiple sclerosis.
  2. Lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Even one night of inadequate sleep can increase hypertension in those who already have high blood pressure. That increased level can last throughout the day.
  3. Lack of sleep puts you at higher risk of traffic accidents, and sleepy-driver crashes are more likely to be serious.
  4. Long-term sleep deprivation is linked to depression. According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep can lead to depression and anxiety. On the other hand, depression can also lead to insomnia. Without intervention, this can become a difficult cycle to interrupt.
  5. Lack of sleep increases risk of obesity, because sleep deprivation can cause the body to produce less leptin, a hormone that reduces appetite. Lack of sleep can also cause the body to produce more ghrelin, a hunger-stimulating hormone.
  6. People who don’t get enough sleep are more vulnerable to infections. One experiment demonstrated that people who slept less than seven hours a night were more likely to develop symptoms of a cold than those who got eight hours.
  7. Lack of sleep increases the risk of diabetes. Sleep disrupts the way the body regulates and processes sugar, which can affect insulin sensitivity and glucose levels.
  8. Lack of sleep affects memory. This study showed that during sleep, the brain cells create new connections, or synapses, which can impact memory and learning.

This is the first in a series of two guest posts about sleep from Dr. Sult. To see this article as it appears on the Whole9 Life website, click here.

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