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Sleep: The Ultimate Biohack

So many of us get caught up in our busy lives, wanting to catch up on shows, finish up work, spend time with the kids and who knows what else. What we do know and understand is that a lot of this stuff is hindering our sleep and the quality of it that we are getting. Unfortunately, people are sleeping less and the quality of sleep you are getting is decreased leaving our natural sleep patterns and needs interfered with. We don't often think about our sleep but we all recognize it makes us feel better when we do get it.

Sleep is so critical to our mental and physical selves. It's not just a time to shut down but more so a period of important processing, restoration, and strengthening. Sleep keeps our hormones healthy, emotions regulated and helps keep our brains cleared, like a power wash.

Benefits to Sleep

1. Lack of sleep is linked to weight gain: When sleep goes down, weight goes up. Research from the University of Colorado showed that one week of sleeping for 5 hours a night led to a gain on average of close to 2 lb. Lack of sleep makes changes to your body on a hormonal level that mess with your hunger and appetite. Sleep deprivation also changes the foods you're interested in creating more intense cravings for high sugar-laden foods.

"The hormone leptin suppresses appetite and encourages the body to expend energy. Sleep deprivation reduces leptin. The hormone ghrelin, on the other hand, triggers feelings of hunger—and ghrelin goes up when you’re short on sleep." - Dr. Michael Breus

2. Learning, Memory and Motor Skills: Getting quality sleep can improve concentration and production. Sleep is imperative for proper brain function. While sleep deprived our concentration, cognition and productivity all decrease. A study shows that sleep deprivation of 17-19 hrs produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to levels of intoxication around .05.

3. Lack of sleep can affect the immune system: Lack of quality sleep means you're more susceptible to getting sick if you've been exposed to virus. Not only will lack of sleep expose your immune system but will also affect how fast and well you recover. Your body produces specific proteins called cytokines while you sleep. Some of these proteins help promote sleep but also some need to increase during sleep to help fight off infection and even stress. Being sleep deprived has the ability to slow the production of cytokines.

4. Poor sleep can lead to increased risk in heart disease: This is regarding people of all ages who may not be getting enough quality sleep. For starters, your blood pressure goes down while you sleep, so shortening that quality rest may not allot your body enough time to lower it properly.

Sleep expert Phyllis Zee, says getting quality sleep can protect the heart:

  • Good-quality sleep decreases the work of your heart, as blood pressure and heart rate go down at night.

  • People who are sleep-deprived show less variability in their heart rate, meaning that instead of fluctuating normally, the heart rate usually stays elevated. That is not a good sign, That looks like heightened stress.

  • Lack of sleep can increase insulin resistance, a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

  • Shortened sleep can increase CRP, or C-reactive protein, which is released with stress and inflammation. "If your CRP is high, it's a risk factor for cardiovascular and heart disease," says Zee. Shortened sleep also interferes with appetite regulation. "So you may end up eating more or eating foods that are less healthy for your heart,"

5. Poor sleep is linked with depression: One of the common signs of depression is insomnia, Having insomnia doesn't cause depression but it certainly plays a role. Lack of sleep caused by another medical illness or by personal problems can make depression worse. Sleep is our restorative state, when that is interrupted increase in tension and irritability are a result. When fatigue sets in your schedule and priorities begin to shift. Eventually a poor cycle of lack of sleep and inactivity causes a down slope in your mood and physical self.

Matthew Walker, neuroscientist at UC Berkeley, the author of Why We Sleep is an expert on sleep and the downside of not getting quality amounts. Here are some of his main tips for improving your sleep habits:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even after a bad night’s sleep or on the weekend.

  • Keep your bedroom temperature cool; about 65 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for cooling your body towards sleep. Wear socks if your feet are cold.

  • An hour before bedtime, dim the lights and turn off all screens. Blackout curtains are helpful.

  • If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something quiet and relaxing until the urge to sleep returns. Then go back to bed.

  • Avoid caffeine after 1 p.m. and never go to bed tipsy. Alcohol is a sedative and sedation is not sleep. It also blocks your REM dream sleep, an important part of the sleep cycle.

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