How A Good Night’s Sleep Can Literally Save Your Life

June 28, 2010


We all know the value of a good night’s sleep, without it we don’t function at are best and are more prone to illness. But did you know that if you have chronic insomnia then you have a three times higher risk of death than those who get a full 8 hours and that only getting a full six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day?

Sadly, insomnia is extremely common as up to a -third of adults say they get less sleep than they need to function at their best. Insomnia is usually not an isolated incident but a persistent condition and 75 percent of people with insomnia say they have it for at least one year, with half suffering for three years.

Insomnia can include all these symptoms:

1. Difficulty falling asleep

2. Waking frequently during the night

3. Waking too early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep

4. Waking feeling unrefreshed

Insomnia will affect your hormone levels and accelerate aging, and may also play a role in diabetes, depression and cancer. Too little sleep impacts your levels of thyroid and stress hormones, which in turn can affect your memory and immune system, your heart and metabolism, and much more — including your risk of cancer. New research now also shows that sleep deprivation leads to changes in the levels of key proteins that can trigger migraines.

A disrupted circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle, may influence cancer progression through shifts in hormones like melatonin, which your brain makes during sleep. There’s also the issue of melatonin, an antioxidant that helps to suppress harmful free radicals in your body and slows the production of estrogen, which can activate cancer. When your circadian rhythm is disrupted, your body may produce less melatonin and therefore may have less ability to fight cancer.

Exposure to light during the night can also reduce melatonin levels, which is why it is important to sleep in total darkness to decrease your risk of cancer. An important hormone that is affected by a disrupted circadian rhythm lies is cortisol, which normally reaches peak levels at dawn then declines throughout the day. It is one of many hormones that help regulate immune system activity, including insulin and researchers have repeatedly shown that insufficient sleep will result in an increased rate of diabetes due to increased insulin resistance.

The key to dealing with insomnia, without first resorting to sleeping pills, is to address the underlying cause and these are the most common culprits:

• Stress is the prime reason for sleeplessness as your brain continues to worry at your problems through the night.

• Overactive adrenals, due to stress, keep you on the alert, and that makes it difficult to sleep

• Poor environment in the bedroom doesn’t help either so ban electrical and electronic devices and no using your mobile, watching tv or doing emails on the laptop in bed. These activities stimulate your brain, making it difficult to then fall asleep. Make sure the bedroom is dark, and cool for optimum sleep.

• Give your stomach a rest and don’t eat for at least two hours before bed, and preferably longer. The later you eat, the harder your digestive system works to deal with the food when ideally it wants to be doing essential repair and maintenance. Eating late at night will keep you awake and if you must do so then eat something that is light and easily digested. aches and confusion, and may also cut your amount of deep sleep, interfering with your body’s ability to refresh itself.

Natural Help for Insomnia

There are a number of well-tried and tested remedies from foods to supplements. Nothing works for everyone, but try these favourite methods and see what works for you:

Herbs — the most popular are valerian nd hops, and if your insomnia is linked to stress and worry then you could try two excellent supplement: Quiet Life by Lanes or Total Calm from Gematria. Chamomile tea is also soothing but try not to drink just before bed so your bladder doesn’t wake you in the night.

Dietary help – help yourself by cutting out stimulants at night, particularly caffeine and sugar. Eat foods that help you sleep and contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin. Eat magnesium-rich foods as it is a natural sedative and deficiency can result in difficulty sleeping, constipation, muscle tremors or cramps, anxiety, irritability, and pain. It has also been useful for people with restless leg syndrome. Magnesium rich foods include legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashewsbrewer’s yeast, and whole grains.

Create a calm atmosphere – get as relaxed as you can before you slip between the sheets so try some meditation before bedtime or a warm, not hot, bath with soothing aromatherapy oils like lavender. If you have a cd player/clock then put on some gentle, slow music on a low setting as it has been found to improve sleep quality and length and reduce frequent waking intervals.


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