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May 25, 2017
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Sleeping Your Way to Better Health


Sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes way beyond just boosting your mood or banishing under-eye circles. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and so much more.

A recent survey found that more people are sleeping less than six hours a night, and sleep difficulties visit 75% of us at least a few nights per week. A short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to worry about. The bigger concern is chronic sleep loss, which can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power, reports the Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

While more research is needed to explore the links between chronic sleep loss and health, it’s safe to say that sleep is too important to shortchange.

Why is sleep important and what happens if we don’t get enough?

  • Your body mass index (BMI) could increase. It’s been proven that sleep deprivation increases your appetite which leads to a greater likelihood of obesity
  • There is an increased risk of diabetes, heart problems and psychiatric conditions
  • Your ability to pay attention, react to signals or learn new things is reduced
  • There is a higher chance that you could fall asleep at the wheel while driving and be in an accident

Benefits of Adequate Sleep

Improve memory

Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep you can strengthen memories or “practice” skills learned while you were awake (it’s a process called consolidation).

Better Health

Too much or too little sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan—although it’s not clear if it’s a cause or effect (illnesses may affect sleep patterns too).

In a 2010 study of women ages 50 to 79, more deaths occurred in women who got less than five hours or more than six and a half hours of sleep per night.

Sleep also affects quality of life.

Curb Inflammation

Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get less sleep—six or fewer hours a night—have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more.

Spur Creativity

In addition to consolidating memories, or making them stronger, your brain appears to reorganize and restructure them, which may result in more creativity as well.

Improved Physical Performance

If you’re an athlete, there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep.

A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.

Maintain Healthier Weight

If you are thinking about going on a diet, you might want to plan an earlier bedtime too.

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. (They shed similar amounts of total weight regardless of sleep.)

Dieters in the study also felt hungrier when they got less sleep.

Tips to Better Sleep

If you’re suffering from lack of sleep, how do you improve it? Here are some tips:

  • Try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. This applies to both children and adults
  • Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as having a bath, doing some stretching or listening to music before you go to bed
  • Sleep in an environment that is dark, quiet and cool
  • Buy a good quality mattress and pillows that you find comfortable
  • Address any severe stress in your life whether it relates to work, relationships or anything else
  • Keep technology out of the bedroom! TV should remain elsewhere in the house, as should computers and cellphones
  • Eat a light dinner early, at least two hours before going to bed
  • Find a form of exercise you like and do it regularly
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine

Therapeutic Massage for Better Sleep

Two things occur when you get a massage which can help with sleep: a reduction in pain and tension in the body, and a gentler, more stable journey from wakefulness to sleep.

Sleep is a whole-body process that responds to changes in body chemistry coordinated with the circadian system. The system produces serotonin, a necessary ingredient for the production of the sleep-inducing substance, melatonin.

Research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience showed that people suffering from chronic pain enjoyed two benefits from massage: an increase in their serotonin levels as well as a decrease in long-term pain.

Interested in experiencing the great benefits of a therapeutic massage? Book a session today with one of OHP’s highly trained and experienced registered massage therapists.



Harvard Health Publications


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