By now it is almost common knowledge that to keep fit and healthy, we need to eat healthy and exercise regularly. It is, however, just as important to get a good night's sleep - preferably every night!
Our view of sleep and sleeping has changed with time. In today's society, many people regard sleep as a necessary evil, something on which we have to "waste" our time each night (or day). There are incredibly many things that we would like to be able to do all the time, things that require open eyes as well as being awake. This is one of the reasons why we also sleep less than we did about 100 years ago. Another major reason why we sleep "only" 7 hours on average per night as opposed to previously sleeping 9 hours per night, is the invention of electric light. Irrespective of the season of the year and the time of the day or night, we have light around us much of the time, and this makes it easier for the body to keep awake.
We need an average of 8 hours of sleep every night, but what works the best is a very individual matter. Some people need at least 9 hours every night to function properly, others need only 6 hours and are perfectly fine with that.
The reason why it is so extremely important to get enough sleep every night is that a lot of different jobs are done in our bodies while we are asleep. Those jobs ensure that we keep a good health and that our bodies are regenerated. If we neglect having a good night's sleep and have an unstable circadian rhythm on an ongoing basis, the regenerating functions are not maintained and we risk falling ill.
In addition to reducing the body's immune response and negatively influencing your health, the lack of sleep is also an important element in the development of overweight and obesity. Most people think that to keep a slender and handsome body, it is vital to focus primarily on eating healthy and exercising adequately. In fact, it is also extremely important to get enough sleep. The thing is that the hormones regulating your appetite are produced at night while you are asleep. Ghrelin, a hormone produced in the stomach, tells the brain when it is time to eat while Leptin, a hormone released from fat tissue, tells the brain when enough food has been eaten. What happens when you have neglected your sleep at night for some time, is that your body will start increasing its production of Ghrelin and reducing its release of Leptin. You therefore do not feel you have satisfied your hunger and consume more calories than your body needs. A frequent result is then overweight. You will also feel that your inclination to eat sweets is greater on days when you have not had enough sleep and feel tired - on days like that it is more difficult to control your craving for sugar.
It is also extremely important to get enough sleep if you exercise or work out because your muscles are regenerated at night so that they get stronger for your next exercise session. If your muscles are not adequately regenerated, you will end up breaking them down during exercising instead of making them stronger and firmer.
There is, however, no reason for you to panic because you neglect a good night's sleep once in a while, whirling away on the local dance floor - what matters is the general picture. You can easily tolerate breaking your sleep pattern once in a while if you otherwise sleep 7 to 8 hours every night, preferably using the same rhythm every day, that is going to bed at the same time every night and rising at the same time every morning. Your body's preferred and best time for regenerating lies between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Tips for a good night's sleep:
- Get plenty of exercise and fresh air every day, it makes you feel naturally tired and furthers a good night's sleep.
- Do relaxing activities (reading, watching TV, listening to quiet music) during the last 3 hours before bedtime.
- Do not go to bed hungry, your body needs a little energy and fuel for regenerating.
- Preferably avoid consuming foods containing caffeine and sugar during the hours before bedtime. It will disturb your sleep and make your blood sugar increase.
- Avoid consuming alcohol before sleeping. One drink may well have an immediate sleep-inducing effect but that will, however, be short only, and you will usually wake up again soon, finding it difficult to fall asleep.
- Make sure that your bedroom is quiet and dark.
- Preferably avoid taking sleeping medicine. It is heavily habit-forming and will do more harm than good in the long run.
- Try to avoid consuming too much liquid just before sleeping. A filled bladder will disturb your sleep and often force you out of your bed in the middle of the night.
- Sex is good for many things, and we simply sleep better after having had sex!