If you have trouble getting quality sleep, it can affect more than just your level of fatigue throughout the day. “We think sleeplessness actually accelerates a lot of health issues related to age,” says Dr. Brad Jacobs, chair of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board. It can also affect your endocrine system, carbohydrate metabolism, glucose tolerance, cortisol levels, and the activity of your sympathetic nervous system, he says.
Here are a few reasons why getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night is essential to good health.
Sleep improves your mood.
We all know how we feel after a lousy night’s sleep—irritable, impatient and unable to concentrate. The reason could be that the chemicals involved in the sleep-wake cycle are also in involved in mood and energy concentration. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you enjoy, exacerbating the cycle.
Sleep can aid in weight loss.
Too little sleep can increase your levels of a hormone called ghrelin, which increases your appetite and can affect the way we process and store carbohydrates. It can also impair your ability to process glucose and increase your body’s tendency to hold on to fat cells. Experts have even linked these issues to increased rates of diabetes.
Sleep is good for your skin.
Our bodies produce proteins while we sleep to restore and repair skin damage that comes from UV light exposure, stress, pollutants and other age-accelerating factors we deal with daily. That means not enough sleep can make it harder to fight off free radicals and speed up our skin’s aging process.
Sleep keeps your brain and memory strong.
Not enough sleep limits our time in REM sleep, the cycle that is most closely linked to improved learning and memory. Adequate sleep has been shown to improve our ability to learn tasks, consolidate memories and make good decisions—a good reason to take a night to “sleep on it” when faced with big choices!
Sleep can reduce your chances of serious disease.
A number of studies have shown that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for health problems such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and more. Sleep deprivation can also alter immune function, impair the activity of the body’s killer cells and increase the presence of stress hormones in the body.
Ask a practitioner about other helpful sleep supplements and strategies.