Everyone knows the importance of sleep, but for many of us, it becomes one of the first things we sacrifice when we need to find more time. For some, work or family-related demands just don’t provide enough time in a day to get everything you need to do. For others, it is about making that extra hour for yourself to relax at night watching TV, reading, or playing video games, knowing full well that you will feel tired the next day. Today we’d like to remind our readers why sleep is so darn important, the problems that can happen if you don’t get enough, and how Absolute Rehab might help in making sure you receive the rest you need not only to operate but to feel as well and whole as possible.
The Benefits of Sleep
Here is a summary of what scientists are saying are the most beneficial qualities associated with resting well on a regular basis. Keep in mind that there are likely many more, these are just the ones that stand out the most!
Alertness and Attention Span: This one may seem obvious, but is listed first for a reason. We all know the feeling of waking up knowing that it will be a rough day ahead because you didn’t get the restful hours you know you should. You kind of float through the day on auto-pilot, and tasks that you can usually accomplish without a thought take a lot of concentration and willpower to execute. You are easily distracted, and more often than usual forgetting the mental checklist you normally keep. As you might guess, not getting enough sleep has been studied and proven to affect both your mood and your performance. Lack of proper rest, over time, has been showed to lead to increased symptoms of ADHD in children, and an increased chance of developing anxiety disorders in adults.
Memory: Although scientists are still learning more about the role of sleep, studies to this point indicate that one of the primary roles of sleep is to process the events of the day in to different areas of the brain. Without proper sleep, this processing will not be able to complete itself properly, leading to experiences and events from the previous day not being ‘stored’ properly in your brain. As a result, you will not retain as much information, and this information may be lost permanently. The more information you absorb (i.e., learning a new task, or studying for school), the more important it is to sleep to retain that information.
General Health: Most people have a general feeling that sleep and health are related. A poor night’s sleep, in fact, reduces the efficiency of your immune system and makes you vulnerable to catching something that you might not otherwise. Over time, these effects are pronounced: lack of sleep over a long period causes premature ageing (such as wrinkles and early onset greying) and has in fact been demonstrated to reduce life expectancy. If for no other reason, this should make you think twice about sacrificing those zzzs!
Sleep and Stress: Our bodies are incredibly adaptive, and sleep is a perfect example. During waking hours, stress hormones act to make us alert when we need to, and drive that motivation we often need to see a task through to completion. Stress, on its own, is not a bad thing – in fact, it enhances our performance. Sleeping actually removes the stress hormones from your brain and body, helping you reset yourself so that you can ably tackle the future challenges you face. Without enough sleep, however, stress hormones can build up, denying your body the ability to return to a properly rested state. Over time, the effects can be disastrous and lead to a vicious cycle of stress and sleep deprivation. Sleep is one of the best methods available to take control of your stressful life!
Sleep and Depression: Following the above point about stress, it is little wonder that not getting enough sleep over a long period of time raises the risk of depression. In addition to the buildup of stress hormones, lack of proper sleep leads to an improper balance of dopamine and serotonin, two chemicals key to feeling well. Lack of sleep prevents these brain chemicals from executing their roles properly and in the right quantities, leaving you feeling sad and depressed. The more nights you go without allowing your brain to execute this vital role, the worse that you will feel. Although there are several reasons that one might feel ‘depressed,’ lack of sleep is among the top preventable reasons.
Sleep and Weight: More evidence is becoming available demonstrating the relationship between sleep and weight. One article I read recently on the topic suggested that lack of sleep actually acts in much the same way that THC does on one’s appetite: your body can no longer detect that you’ve consumed the proper amount and tells you to keep eating! In addition to this, sleeping produces a growth hormone that instructs your body to break down fat for energy, and actually prevents new fat from being produced!
Heart Health and Inflammation: All of the latest research in the area of sleep and inflammation points to one particular protein building up in the bloodstream that has an inflammatory effect. A proper night’s sleep helps eliminate this protein and thus reduces the potential inflammation levels you experience. As is widely known, inflammation is a significant contributor to several disease conditions for the body, heart disease being among them. In addition to its anti-inflammatory effects, sleep also eases your heart’s workload, your blood pressure, and your blood sugar levels, ensuring optimal heart maintenance. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that lack of sleep has been directly linked to an elevated risk for both strokes and heart attacks.
Other Benefits: The list above covers some of the primary reasons you should consider a good night’s sleep a priority. In addition to the above, muscle growth, sex drive and cancer prevention have all been associated with a proper night’s sleep!
Learning to Sleep Again!
Recognizing the vital importance of sleep, our team at Absolute Rehab makes it a priority to work with our clients to maximize the conditions for a restful and proper sleep. We know that for a variety of reasons a chronic lack of sleep can happen to the best of us, typically for anxiety and/or pain-related reasons. With that in mind, we offer two proven solutions to get you back on track towards sleeping for the whole night again.
Massage Therapy and Sleep: Many health authorities, including the Mayo Clinic and the National Institute of Health, have endorsed massage therapy as an effective treatment for many types of sleeping disorders. Massage therapy both reduces fatigue and improves sleep in many different ways by triggering various neurochemicals in your body. Read more about this in our previous blog. In a nutshell, over time massage therapy reduces anxiety and promotes relaxation, and sets up the mental conditions many of us need to head into slumber feeling relaxed and unconcerned about the stresses we know lay ahead. Still need convincing? One study took 84 people suffering from insomnia who were provided massage on a daily basis. After 2 weeks their sleep quality was measured. Of the 84 participants, 67 were observed to be sleeping normally, 11 showed significant improvement, 3 showed modest improvement, and only 3 participants showed no improvement at all!
Acupuncture and Sleep: In the late 1990s, the World Health Organization conducted a thorough review of the benefits of acupuncture. In that review, insomnia was specifically included as a condition properly treatable by acupuncture. Since then, more and more evidence has emerged indicating acupuncture as an effective treatment for a poor night’s sleep. There are many theories regarding why acupuncture is so beneficial to sleeping better, but two main theories have emerged. The first is that acupuncture stimulates the body’s production of melatonin, the natural hormone that instructs your body that it is time to rest. The other prevailing theory is that acupuncture has a direct effect on the relief of obstructive sleep apnea, by stimulating tongue and throat muscles to prevent them from collapsing during sleep. Although there is still some debate around the specific reasons, what is known for certain is that acupuncture has a direct positive effect on promoting a good night’s sleep.
If you or someone you love is suffering from poor sleep, we invite you to act by contacting us to explore whether our services might be a good fit. Over the years we have helped thousands of clients feel well again, and sleeping restfully has often been a big part of that.