Did you know that sleep is not a luxury – it is a non negotiable biological necessity. Think of it as your your life support system!
It is absolutely vital for our health and wellbeing that we get enough sleep and make it a priority, not just something we tag on to the end of our day!
There are some important bodily functions that rely on getting a goods nights sleep including brain and functions of learning and memory, hormonal balance and our immune system.
Brain and functions of learning and memory
When it comes to brain function, it’s useful to think of your brain as a computer. When we go to sleep we hit the ‘save’ button. The Hippocampus (the information inbox of the brain) receives new memory files and holds onto them. If we don’t get enough sleep then the memory box just shuts down and any incoming files will just bounce!
We also need sleep before learning to prepare the brain to soak up the information.
A full 8 hours of sleep restores and enhances learning and memory ability.
When we enter a deep sleep, the deep sleep brain waves act like a file transfer mechanism, shifting memories from the short term site to a long term site, therefore protecting them and making them safe.
So if you find you are struggling to concentrate, absorb information and remember things, it could be due to lack of sleep.
Sleep Dysregulation & Hormonal Balance (Leptin and Grehlin)
Insomnia and sleep deprivation plays a significant role to over consumption of energy (food) leading to weight gain.
There are two key hormones that help to control our appetite.
- Leptin – this is the hormone that says I’ve had enough thank you, meaning you won’t overeat
- Ghrelin – this is the hormone that says grr – I’m hungry!
A study showed that 5 hours sleep per night versus 8 hours sleep per night resulted in 15.5 % lower leptin and 14.9% higher grehlin.
So, if you are finding that you can’t stop eating, feel constantly hungry and are craving sugary foods, this could be because you are not getting enough sleep.
Your Immune System
Our bodies contain natural killers cells. Think of them as the secret service agents of your immune system. They find dangerous and unwanted elements and get rid of them.
Studies show that there is a 70% drop in natural killer cell activity when sleep is restricted to just four hours!
This would explain why we can feel constantly run down when we are tired and not getting enough sleep. Research also shows that lack of sleep can lead to inflammation throughout the body, stress and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease!
So what can you do to get a good nights sleep?
There are quite a few things we can to help ourselves get a good nights sleep. Here are my top 3:
- PRIORITISE – good sleep hygiene needs to become a habit. You need to prioritise sleep, a strict part of your daily routine. Nor more staying up late to catch up on housework etc!
2. REGULARITY – go to bed at the same time get up at the same time
3. SMARTPHONES / TABLETS / DEVICES
Devices should be out of the bedroom and turned off a couple of hours before bed because they omit something called blue light. The brain interprets blue light as daylight which affects your circadium rhythm (your bodies internal clock) which regulates your sleep wake cycle and responds to light and dark.
We also have a hormone called Melatonin which helps to control our daily sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin makes you feel sleepy! It starts to rise mid to late evening after the sun has set, staying elevated for most of the night while you are in the dark and then dropping in the early morning as the sun rises.
Blue light omitted from devices such as smart phones and tablets, surpresses melatonin and therefore your natural cycle of feeling sleepy is either delayed or doesn’t happen!
So there we have it, the importance of sleep and 3 of my top tips to get a good nights sleep. Good luck and let me know how you get on!
Some of the information for this blog was taken from a TED talk by Mat Walker. You can watch the full video HERE