5 Pillars of Health: Sleep

Like nutrition and physical exercise, sleep is a critical component of health and well-being. We all know that sleep is essential for survival but it is also the prime time for the body and brain to repair. Our bodies regulate sleep in much the same way that they regulate eating, drinking, and breathing. This suggests that sleep serves a similar critical role in our health and well-being. We spend about a third of our lives sleeping, after all.


SERIOUS BENEFITS


Many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep. Your brain also uses this time to send waste and toxins out of your body on a cellular level, and then brings in nutrients to replenish them. A good night’s sleep contributes countless other benefits, with essentially zero effort. It lowers stress, improves concentration and boosts emotional stamina. Proper rest sets you up for your best performance.


DETRIMENTAL EFFECTS


On the other hand, while poor sleep might be a common occurrence for many, it has serious and damaging effects on the body. Poor sleep increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, excess weight gain, and weak bones. Besides robbing you of energy and time for muscle repair, lack of sleep saps your motivation, which is what gets you to the finish line. You'll face harder mental and physical challenges and see slower reaction times.


SLEEP & YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM


Sleep provides essential support to the immune system. Getting sufficient hours of high-quality sleep enables a well-balanced immune defense that features strong innate and adaptive immunity, efficient response to vaccines, and less severe allergic reactions. Sleep and the immune system have a bidirectional relationship, or ride on a two-way street. Immune system activation alters sleep, and sleep in turn affects our body's defense system. Ultimately, consistent sleep strengthens the immune system, allowing for balanced and effective immune function.


QUALITY ZZZS


First and foremost, be consistent. Go to bed around the same time each night and get up around the same time each morning, including the weekends. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature. Set aside electronic devices when you climb into bed and allow your mind and body to unwind without the distraction of a screen. Take up a calm activity like reading, meditating, or listening to peaceful music if you need help winding down. Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol immediately before bedtime. And stay consistent with your daily workouts! Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.


TIP: Put away electronic devices an hour before bedtime. Their light can confuse your internal clock.


AIM: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night, but listen to your body when it tells you it needs more and make that a priority.


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