Why Sleep is So Important to Your Health and Weight

While everyone is different when it comes to health and wellbeing, and different amounts of sleep work for different people, wellness experts assert that you need roughly seven to nine hours of sleep every night. According to researchers at the Sleep Disorder Clinic at Stanford University, any less sleep than this can lead to serious health concerns, such as heart disease. In fact, wellness experts believe that sleep deprivation is worse for your health than drinking or even smoking. If you have fewer than six hours of sleep a night, studies show that your risk of having a heart attack increases by 18% compared to those who get a regular seven to nine hours. However, that’s nothing compared to people who get fewer than five hours of sleep a night, as their heart attack risk is raised to 40%. Surely, it’s time to stand up and take notice of the importance of sleep.


During sleep, your body uses this time to repair itself. This is also when your stress levels drop, thus making it possible for your brain to become focused again. In fact, your sleeping habits have even been linked to your ability to maintain or lose weight, with regular, restful sleep correlating to better results. Plus, in the deepest stages of sleep, your body is better able to fight disease from the inside – much like some sort of health concern secret agent – and repair tissue damage and more. From all this, you can see that your body is a complex machine that needs constant care, with sleep acting as its own version of a reboot or self-overhaul. While you wouldn’t rush your mechanic when he or she is checking and fixing your vehicle, you do it to the “little mechanics” inside your own body.


Let’s unpack some of the more interesting and pleasant side effects of a good night’s sleep; weight loss. Research has shown that sleep deprivation causes your levels of ghrelin to rise and your levels of leptin to drop. In English? Leptin is a hormone produced by your body to make you feel satisfied or full after you eat. The less sleep you get, the lower your level of leptin which, in turn, means you feel less satisfied when you eat the next day and will end up eating more. The other sleep-food hormone your body produces is ghrelin, which is designed to stimulate your appetite. Therefore, not getting enough sleep packs a one-two punch to your waistline, with low leptin levels making you feel less full when you eat, and high ghrelin levels causing your body to get hungry, and consequently eat, more often.


Now we’ve covered the importance of sleep – although I could go on – it’s now time to look at how you go about getting enough sleep. If you have deadlines or an overly busy schedule, sometimes it’s not possible to get your seven to nine hours. When this occurs, try to remove any unnecessary obligations until you get your sleep routine back on track and, failing a seven- to nine-hour stretch, try to take naps when you can. If getting to sleep is difficult for you, you might find it easier to nod off if you’ve exercised during the day (as long as you avoid doing this less than three hours before bedtime). A bedtime ritual, such as having warm milk with honey, a warm bath or reading for a little bit before bed, can also help you get your body ready for sleep. Finally, make sure your room is the right temperature and well ventilated. Sweet dreams!

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