Sleep, many of us do not get enough. Scientists are beginning to believe the old recommendation of eight hours a night falls short of what we need, and we don’t always get that eight to begin with. Here are some reasons to get your snooze on.
Why Do We Sleep?
This question has troubled science for ages. There isn’t a great evolutionary drive for sleep. You would think conscious, active, and aware creatures would survive better, so why close our eyes and go inactive? We’re just beginning to understand all the activities that happen while we sleep and how much they matter to our survivability.
Repair – We do a lot of damage to ourselves during the day. Muscle tears, bruises, strains, and more pile up, but we’re doing a ton of harm internally that we can’t see too. Free radicals, background radiation, environmental toxins, and stress are messing with DNA, cellular functions, and organs all day long. Sleep is the time your body dedicates to doing repairs.
Clean House – Metabolic waste, toxins, and aging cells are a problem. Our body uses the quiet time of sleep, when less is happening, metabolically speaking, to clean up. Lack of sleep means these build, slow down systems, and clog up cellular functions.
Set Memories – Sleep is vital to memory. It is when our brains take important short-term memories and store them long term.
Dreams – Dreams are important, even if we don’t understand exactly why. People who fail to reach or maintain REM sleep have more memory problems, anxiety, depression, and weight control issues. We do know dreams help retain brain plasticity, the ability to adapt. The brain reorganizes neurons at night, not just the ones involved with memory, creating new connections. This would be difficult, distracting, and dangerous when conscious, so our bodies created the perfect time for neuroplasticity to get its updates.
Resupply – We burn through a lot of resources during the activities of the day. The body rebuilds its supply of hormones, neurotransmitters, and essential proteins as we slumber. Many of these regulate stress response, growth, muscle mass, and appetite.
Health Benefits of Good Sleep
Less Fat – Sleep gives us a healthier metabolism while improving appetite control. Many hormones that govern appetite and sleep are created only while we’re out for the night. And your metabolism works better after a thorough cleaning.
Productivity – Sleep improves concentration, focus, and memory. These are all vital parts of tackling your goals and deadlines.
Creativity – Dreams often inspire books and art, but they do more than you know. That improved brain plasticity makes creatives better at what they love, helps entrepreneurs come up with new ideas, and drive us to seek out improvements in all aspects of our lives.
Athleticism – There’s good reason athletes sometimes blame a bad night’s sleep for poor performance. A healthy amount of sleep is linked to endurance, muscle reactivity, fatigue levels, and more.
Heart Health – People who get enough sleep are less likely to suffer heart attacks and stroke.
Brain Health – Improved concentration and memory the next day aren’t the only reasons to get your rest. Long term health is a part of it too. Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other brain conditions are all made worse by lack of sleep.
Mood – Anxiety, depression, and irritability are increased by lost sleep. A good night’s rest rebuilds the neurotransmitters and hormones that help us regulate our moods, resist depression, and feel good.
Inflammatory Response – As toxins, metabolic waste, stress hormones, and aging cells build up, so does our inflammation. Sleep is vital to clearing these out.
Immune Health – Our immune system relies on lymphatic fluid that doesn’t flow as quickly as blood. A slower heart rate helps us catch up while the body resupplies the immune cells with the tools they need.
Diabetic Protection – Those who sleep poorly are more at risk for type two diabetes. This has to do with compromised appetite control, a loss of regulating hormones, and cellular waste all working against them.
Natural Sleep Aids
Exercise – As little as ten minutes of exercise a day can drastically improve how well you sleep at night. Our bodies expect some heart pounding movement, some physical labor, and some heavy breathing after thousands of years as hunter gatherers. If we don’t get any of this, our normal patterns break down. It doesn’t take much, so get moving.
Outdoors – Being outdoors with the green leaves and fresh air has been shown to lower stress and anxiety. A simple walk outside for ten minutes at some point during the day can help you sleep better even hours later. Natural light during the day is also vital to melatonin production later.
Melatonin – Melatonin is produced by our bodies as darkness falls. In our modern world, too many of us don’t get the natural light, followed by pure darkness that evolution expects. You can supplement with melatonin to reset those circadian rhythms and help you sleep deeper, better, a longer. Tart cherry juice is a natural source if you dislike pills.
Passionflower – Passionflower eases tension, anxiety, and stress. It calms, relaxes, and aids sleep. Many people use it to counter anxiety during the day, but it’s an amazing sleep aid too. Try it as a tea for quick benefits just before bed.
Valerian Root – Valerian root works in much the same way as passionflower, but is stronger. It kicks in quickly and may not leave you with the groggy feeling many less natural sleep aids do.
Chamomile – Chamomile has a relaxing effect, especially as a tea or in a bath. Use it both ways.
L-Theanine – This amino acid supplies a calm, mellow, relaxed feeling. It is found in green teas, especially matcha, but the natural caffeine may keep you awake. That calmed focus is great if you want to be productive, but what if you want to sleep? You can find L-Theanine alone, or try a Roasted Matcha. The roasting breaks down caffeine, so you get the relaxation without the buzz.
Magnesium – This mineral is important in regulating many systems within your body, including sleep, appetite, and stress management.
Lavender – This flower’s fragrance is enough to calm most of us. Try it in a bath, diffuser, or rubbed on skin just before bed.
CBD – Growing in popularity for many reasons, CBD can also help with sleep. By lowering stress while increasing relaxation, this extract is being included in many more sleep aids.
Kava – A traditional calming beverage of Pacific Islanders, kava was used in ceremonies and as medicine. It relaxes, calms anxiety, and can help sleep come quicker.
Glycine – Another amino acid that’s found in food, glycine goes into collagen production, antioxidants, and creatine. It also has been linked to better sleep.