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5 Ways To Sleep Yourself Happier

5 Ways Sleep Makes You Healthy

5 Ways to Sleep Yourself To A More Attractive, Healthier, Happier You!

“When did 24-7 become a way of life?” asks freelance writer and early childhood educator Lori Miller Kase in Reader’s Digest (110). She points out that whether its failing to disconnect from technologies like video games and the internet or failing to find balance in work, family, or other demands that are to blame, millions of Americans are jeopardizing their health, quality of life, and even length of life by failing to get enough sleep. New evidence shows why getting enough sleep may be your top priority.

About 40% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep on weeknights, down from 8 hours in the 1950’s (112). “The link between sleep and health, and bad sleep and disease, has become clearer and clearer,” says Lawrence Epstein, MD, author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep (as cited by Kase, 112). He explains that getting more good-quality sleep is probably the easiest way to improve your health.

Sleep to Protect Your Health

Studies have shown that people who sleep less tend to have higher blood pressure. The correlation between sleep duration and hypertension could explain other studies linking lack of sleep to increased risk for heart attack, diabetes, weight gain, and other problems.

Furthermore, sleeping better may help fight illness. “When people are sleep-deprived there are higher levels of stress hormones in their bodies and an increase in inflammation, both of which can decrease immune function,” says Phyllis Zee, MD, associate director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology at Northwestern University in Chicago (as cited by Kase, 113). In fact, in a University of Chicago study, men who were vaccinated for the flu while being deprived of sleep (less than four hours per night) produced less than half the antibodies to the flu virus as vaccinated men who were not sleep deprived (112-13).

Sleep to Help You Look Your Best

Sleep can help you look better. People limited to less than 5 hours of sleep per night for several nights not only have more physical ailments such as headaches and stomach problems; they also undergo changes in metabolism that are similar to those occurring with normal aging! One reason for this may be the dramatic decrease in growth hormones that occurs between the ages of 20 and 60, says heart surgeon Mehmet C. Oz, MD, coauthor of the You health books (113). These hormones are essential to keeping us looking good as we age. Dr Oz explains, “When you have high levels of the hormone, you have muscle mass, better skin—you look sexy. You want to keep your growth hormones as high as possible, and the number one best way to do that is sleep,” (as cited by Kase, 113).

Sleep to Be Happier and Less Stressed

Sleep can even help people be happier and less stressed. New research shows that people with insomnia produce higher levels of stress hormones than others, which puts their bodies in a hyperaroused state and can make it difficult for them to sleep (114). The inability to sleep causes more stress. Moreover, people who don’t sleep get depressed, and depression causes insomnia, creating a vicious cycle. “You’re depressed, you keep forgetting things—not sleeping was the most horrible thing that ever happened to me,” says Paul Nielsen, 42, of Niles, Illinois (as cited by Kase, 114). He says he missed days of work and even drove his car onto the lawn and into some bushes because he just couldn’t focus anymore. “But we know the inverse is true: that more and better sleep can make you feel happier,” says Dr. Oz (as cited by Kase, 114).

Sleep to Build a Better Brain

Sleep deprivation not only leads to poor health, it also affects concentration, problem-solving skills, memory, and mood. In fact, lack of sleep can have cognitive and physical effects similar to those caused by an overindulgence in alcohol: the performance of someone who has been awake for 17 hours straight is about the same as if she had a blood alcohol level of .05% (about 2 drinks in an hour) (114). Car accidents caused by people driving while fatigued are responsible for around 1,500 deaths a year (115).

Sleep to Lose a Few Pounds

Recent studies also suggest that people who get an inadequate amount of sleep are more likely to gain weight. Inadequate sleep lowers levels of leptin, the hormone that causes you to feel full while increasing levels of ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry (115). “What’s also fascinating is that sleep deprivation influences your food choices, making you crave high-carb and high-sugar foods,” explains Michael Breus, PhD, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health (as cited by Kase, 115). This is because sleep loss decreases insulin sensitivity, putting those with inadequate sleep at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. More sleep may therefore make it easier for people to fight junk-food cravings and lose a few pounds.

Kase, Lori Miller. “The Magic Power of Sleep.” Reader’s Digest (Oct. 2007): 110-15. Print.
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