The Truth About Sleep and Your Health

By Brittany Stubbs

It’s strange when you think about the extreme measures we’ll take to be healthy, and yet we seem to deprive ourselves of something so basic: sleep. It’s ironic when you think about it. We’ll force ourselves to go to that 6 a.m. cardio class, stick to a carb-less and flavorless diet, spend countless dollars a month on diet supplements, and yet we struggle to get in bed an hour earlier. We’re all aware that getting enough sleep not only benefits our mental health, but our physical health as well. Research has shown that those with better sleep habits tend to weigh less than those suffering from sleep deprivation. Though this is knowledge that has been preached for decades, new BYU research is now taking it a step further, finding that the bed time consistency and wake time can also have an influence on one’s body fat.

Science Daily reported a study Bruce Bailey, an exercise science professor at Brigham Young University, conducted in which he studied the sleep habits of over 300 women from two major universities for several weeks. Bailey’s research not only backed up previous studies that concluded those who were sleep deprived tended to weigh more, but he discovered sleep patterns were also important. His research showed, “study participants who went to bed and woke up at, or around the same time each day had lower body fat. Those with more than 90 minutes of variation in sleep and wake time during the week had higher body fat than those with less than 60 minutes of variation.” The National Sleep Foundation reports that the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Although Bailey and his team’s conclusion agree with this, they pointed out that wake time was particularly linked to body fat and those who woke up at the same time each morning despite their schedule had lower body fat, leading to the conclusion that “staying up late and even sleeping in may be doing more harm than good.” This is particularly interesting because it’s something we’ve all been guilty of doing.

Good sleep habits are not only beneficial for our weight, but the overall health of our bodies. Studies have indicated that sleep deprivation increases one’s risk for metabolic diseases and mortality. reports, “partial sleep restriction affects the regulation of signaling pathways related to the immune system. Some of these changes appear to be long-lasting and may at least partly explain how prolonged sleep restriction can contribute to inflammation-associated pathological states, such as cardiometabolic diseases.” We truly threaten our body’s physical health, both internally and externally, when we deprive ourselves of sleep.

So now that you’ve been woken up with the frightening results of these studies, how do you get yourself to sleep? We’ve compiled a list of various tips to help achieve better sleep habits and benefit your overall health.

  • Avoid huge meals before bedtime: Eating a lot might make you feel tired, but fatty foods require a lot of work on your body to digest and may keep you up. Meals containing spicy or acidic foods often cause stomach trouble and heartburn, just more distractions that will keep you from slipping in between the sheets earlier.
  • Avoid alcohol close to bedtime: While alcoholic beverages often put you to sleep faster, they reduce the quality of your actual sleep.
  • Cut back on caffeine: Everyone knows it’s not smart to drink a soda near bedtime, but few are aware of how caffeine can influence your body even ten hours after you consume it. Consider cutting back on caffeine completely, or at least limiting your consumption of caffeine to anytime before noon.
  • Put away the electronics: In our technology obsessed world, it’s hard to avoid looking at your phone or laptop for a little after climbing into bed, but studies have shown that electronic devices stimulate your brain activity, which result in making it harder for your body to get to sleep.
  • Set a bedtime and set an alarm: As the BYU study showed, consistent sleep and wake times not only get your body on a schedule, but can influence your overall body fat.
  • Limit naps: Although there are days a good nap might save you, daytime naps often interfere with your nighttime sleep pattern.
  • Regular physical activity: Exercising on a regular basis promotes better sleep. But choose your exercise time carefully, as too much physical activity right before bed often energizes the body, making it hard to wind down.
  • Manage stress: It’s difficult to get yourself to sleep when you have too much on your mind or too much to do. Figure out healthy ways to restore the peace to your life.

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Categories: Home, Your Lifestyle

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