Why Is Sleep So Important?
2016 07 26 | BY Kimberlee Franklin
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Why is sleep so important? Sleep is the cheapest, most effective form of medicine. However, there is an optimal amount…. too little leaves you lethargic and too much also leaves you feeling lethargic!

 

The human body has a natural physiological cycle of about 24 hours and this cycle exists even without any external cues. Our bodies naturally release stress hormones and repair hormones at varying levels throughout the day and night.

At sunrise, the light receptors on our skin and in our eyes are stimulated. The receptors are part of the central nervous system and they signal to the brain that it is time to get up and start the day.

Therefore, in the morning stress hormones (eg cortisone) are at their highest levels when we are active and need to get things done and then during the night our growth and repair hormones (eg melatonin) are at their highest levels.

By sundown, cortisol levels should have plummeted to their lowest levels while at the same time, the body begins to release melatonin (melatonin release is inhibited by light) and this growth hormone triggers the release of other growth hormones, such as testosterone, estrogen and human growth hormone.

 

Sunrise and sunset...

Remember, this is our natural cycle but the problem that many people have is that the cycle is disrupted by over stimulation from computers and late night television and also poor diet such as excessive sugar, caffeine, food additives and alcohol for example.

Growth hormone levels peak between 10pm-2am. This is the time when our physical body repairs itself, but only if growth hormone levels are adequate. So shift work or long work hours, late night exercise, late night television etc all eat into the window of opportunity for optimal physical repair and restoration.

Our psychological repair tends to occur around 2am-6am in the morning.

So what can we do to optimise our sleep cycles and ultimately get better quality sleep?

- Avoid stimulants after 1-2pm

- Ensure you are giving your body great nutrition from whole foods (organic where possible)

- Get to bed by 10pm (10:30 at latest!)

- Cut back on bright lights like ipads, television, flourescent lighting etc about 1 hour prior to going to bed.

- Try to exercise early in the day whenever possible as exercise increases stress hormones in the body.

Stay on top of your hydration as the necessary chemical reactions for repair and growth require water.

 sleepimages

Short term a healthy body can bounce back from a few late nights and bad habits but over time lack of good quality sleep will ultimately make your overall health suffer. For instance chronic fatigue, depressed immune function…

I hope this post helps to answer the question: Why is sleep so important?

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