Good Sleep and Good Health Go Hand in Hand
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Sleep, just like eating and exercising, is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Healthy, sound sleep allows us to wake up feeling well-rested, energetic, and ready to tackle the day. On the other hand, inadequate sleep exposes us to unwanted consequences, such as impaired attention, memory and concentration, increased risk for accidents and death, and overall negative effects on our emotional and physical health.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep requirements vary based on age and health needs. Most adults need at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep every day – this should be your goal. Unfortunately, the proportion of adults in the United States sleeping less than seven hours per night has increased from 16 to 37 percent over the past 40 years.
Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your sleep quality and quantity. Start by making sure to have a comfortable, quiet, cool (below 70 degrees), dark, phone-free bedzone. For more tips on getting a healthy night’s sleep, visit the Harvard School of Public Health.
The Connection Between Sleep and Weight Gain
In 2016, the American Heart Association officially recognized inadequate sleep as a risk factor for heart disease. In addition, it appears likely that sleep deprivation can also lead to an increase in appetite and subsequent weight gain. Much of the research in this area is looking at changes in levels of two specific hormones (chemical messengers) that regulate our appetite – ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone,’ is produced in the gut and signals the brain that it is time to eat. Its main job is to increase appetite and promote calorie intake. Once the stomach is full, ghrelin levels decrease back to baseline.
Leptin, the ‘satiety hormone,’ is produced by your body’s fat cells. Leptin tells our body that we are full. Its main job is to regulate your energy by balancing the number of calories that you eat and burn.
Research has found individuals who sleep fewer hours make more ghrelin and less leptin. In other words, the hormone that increases appetite goes up and the one that signals your body to stop eating is decreased. It also appears that individuals who sleep fewer hours have higher BMIs and may produce more cortisol, a different hormone that influences appetite, blood pressure, and mood.
Bottom line: Make healthy sleep a priority by working toward at least seven hours every night in a comfortable, cool, dark environment.
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