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Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
April 11, 2013
A little late but back this month with about getting enough sleep!
How much is enough?
Common knowledge has led us to accept that the average person needs around eight hours of sleep per night. For some people it is just not convenient, and for others it is just not attainable - but what does it matter? How does it impact our health?
You might be forgiven for thinking that sleeping is merely a time of physical rest for the day ahead tomorrow. While that is part of the process, there is much more to it than that.
Did you ever stop to think why you need to sleep?
By nature, your body can only handle so much physical endurance in one single day. While it is physically possible to push the limits from time to time, it cannot be done indefinitely without harmful side effects.
As you exert yourself during daytime, some processes in your body start lagging behind - pretty much like batteries wearing down - because energy is diverted elsewhere in the body as needed in the moment. When you sleep, these processes catch up on their backlog.
Additionally, your sleeping time is a time of healing. While sleeping, you do not apply any more pressure to parts of your body that may be unwell - like a broken rib, a head aching from stress, sore eyes, etc. With the pressure removed, the body can try to heal itself without interference or further damage.
And finally, sleeping time is when your mind is sorting itself out. During the first sleeping cycle (most people sleep in cycles of roughly three hours each), most of it is spent in a deep sleep to obtain as much physical rest as possible.
In the subsequent cycles, however, more and more of the sleeping time is devoted to what scientists refer to as "rapid eye movement" periods. It is believed that we dream during these periods; which explains why you usually wake from a dream in the morning, and seldom do so during the middle of the night.
Keep in mind that the amount of sleep you get is not the only thing to pay attention to - it is also about the quality of sleep involved. It is of no use sleeping for eight hours per night if you are uncomfortable, or go to bed on a full stomach, or if you are surrounded by noise.
Additionally, light makes it difficult for most people to switch their minds off when trying to sleep. Light stimulates the production of chemicals in your brain that literally "wakes it up" - so the less light you have intruding into your bedroom, the better the quality of sleep you will enjoy.
Also remember that regular exercise will help your body to maintain temperature cycles (it does not stay perfectly constant as most people believe), and by forcing it higher during daytime, your body will be able to "shut off" better when you have to go to sleep. Is all this starting to sink in now and sound familiar?
Eat healthy, sleep healthy, exercise healthy… all ingredients of the recipe for longevity and living well!
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