The Power of Sleep

“Sleep is the best meditation.” – Dalai Lama

We roughly spend one-third of our life sleeping. It is one of the best things one can do for their health and wellness. Yet, it is the first thing we sacrifice on when we feel pressed for time – may it be because of work, social obligations, family priorities or everyday errands.

In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, the consequence of insufficient sleep is often overlooked, and the impact it has on health. Sleep is the time when the body goes into the repair mode and depriving our body to heal and rejuvenate
itself can result in long-term medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cognitive deficits, suppressed immune system etc.

Few studies:

Obesity

People who slept less than 6 hours on a regular basis were more likely to have excess body weight.1

Diabetes

Studies have shown that poor sleep can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.2, 3

Cardiovascular diseases

There is a growing evidence that reduced sleep is associated with increased risk of heart diseases.Sleep deprivation can increase sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) activity, which in turn increases hypertension and risk of cardiovascular diseases.5

Cognitive Deficits

Sleep deprivation has shown to affect recognition memory,6 decreased response rate, decision making, divergent thinking and working memory.7

Immune system

Interactions between sleep and the immune system has been well documented. One of many studies showed that the immune system functions best when it gets enough sleep (7 or more hours).8

Getting a good quality sleep is as much important as proper diet and exercise. One of the most common reasons for poor sleep is stress. When our minds are overactive, with constant thoughts it can be impossible to relax. So, a lot of the times, meditation and yoga is recommended to help relax the mind and relieve stress. Of course, it is easier said than done!

Following are few simple tips to help achieve a balanced sleep:

Benjamin Franklin once said,

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  

  1. Try to get your body into a routine - aim to go to sleep everyday by 10pm and wake up by 6am.
  2. Exercise – regular moderate exercises can help balance your 24-hour body clock and optimize your hormone levels. Avoid intense exercising at night.
  3. Avoid too much stimulation at night i.e. turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. Artificial light can interfere with production of melatonin (hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycle).
  4. Bedroom should be kept cool (around 20°C (67°F)) and dark while sleeping. This will help with melatonin production.
  5. Drink a herbal tea after dinner to help you relax. 
  6. Eat lighter meal at night. Minimally processed foods can keep you satisfied until the morning and slow-digesting carbs can help with sleep.
  7. Unwind and learn to relax by practicing quiet moments focusing on breathing. 
  8. This is an easy one! Avoid caffeine closer to bedtime. 

Proper sleep nourishes the body, improves memory, enhances strength and immunity and can help increase life span. No matter who you are, getting a good quality sleep is vital for your mind and body. It should be the most important part of your wellness routine.

It’s time we revisit the way we prioritize sleep!

References:

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/410832
  2. http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/166/16/1768
  3. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/27/10/2464.full
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16466124
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2845795/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19761853
  7. https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/article-abstract/29/Supplement_1/ckz034.096/5480863?redirectedFrom=fulltext
  8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsw019