The Importance of Sleep

On the outside, we look relaxed, peaceful, and unaware. But what really goes on while we sleep? We spend nearly one-third of our lives—approximately 25 years—in a state of sleep, yet we remember little to none of it. When you hit the pillow, your body doesn’t turn off. It begins an intricate cycle of rejuvenation that is vital to your health and well-being.

Research shows that a number of important tasks are carried out while we sleep and these help us to stay healthy and function at an optimal level.

During sleep our brain works hard to form pathways that are necessary for learning, creating memories and new insights. Without enough sleep we cannot focus and pay attention or respond quickly. Sleep deprivation also causes mood evidence and there is growing evidence that chronic lack of sleep can also increase your risk of diseases and infections.

Research suggests that we need at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night to be well rested. Insufficient or a poor quality of sleep puts your body under significant stress, compromises your immune system, can make you gain weight, be forgetful and irrational.

Good sleep is one of the most important factors in reducing stress and if we are sleep deprived our stress can cause elevated cortisol levels in the evening. This in turn makes you tired during the day and wide awake at night, which in turn then affects the quality of your sleep. It's a nasty cycle.


8 Reasons To Get Enough Sleep

  1. Better Health - Getting a good night's sleep won't grant you immunity from disease, but studies have found a link between chronic insufficient sleep and serious health issues like heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes and obesity.
  2. Mood - Getting enough sleep won't guarantee a sunny disposition, but you have probably noticed that when your'e exhausted, you're more likely to be cranky. Sleep loss affects your emotional regulation which may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate and moodiness. It can also leave you too tired to do the things that you enjoy doing. One notable study that followed 909 working women, reflected that a poor night’s rest affected their happiness as much as tight work deadlines, and it had an even bigger impact on mood than significant income differences in the group.
  3. Healthier Sex Life - According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, up to 26% of people say that their sex lives tend to suffer because they're just too tired. Not getting enough sleep lowers libido and can make people more likely to have sexual problems like erectile dysfunction. And sleep itself is restorative — it increases testosterone levels, which boosts sexual drive for both men and women. Of course, not getting enough sleep can affect your love life in less direct ways too. "If you're a 28-year-old who's so exhausted you're falling asleep during a date at the movies, that's not good," says Ronald Kramer, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a specialist at the Colorado Sleep Disorders Center in Englewood, Colo.
  4. Learning and Memory - Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. Studies have shown that people who sleep after learning a task do better on tests taken later.
  5. Better Weight Control - Getting enough sleep could help you maintain weight whereas chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain. Our bodies contain a hormone called leptin which plays a key role in making us feel full after eating. When we don't get enough sleep, our leptin levels drop. The result is that people who are tired can exhibit more hungriness - and they seem to crave high-fat and high-calorific foods specifically.
  6. Better memory - If you are feeling forgetful, sleep loss could be to blame as studies have shown that while we sleep, our brains process and consolidate memories from throughout the day. Sleep deprivation could mean that those memories do not get stored correctly and can be lost. When researchers had adults do a task, then get a good night’s sleep, and then try the task again, they showed improvement. But participants who stayed awake for 30 hours after learning the same task, had a much harder time improving their skills — even if they practiced and had a chance to catch some recovery shut eye later. Initial sleep deprivation impaired their ability to learn.
  7. Safety - Sleep deprivation contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls or mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps or road accidents. Any kind of accident is more likely when you're exhausted, says Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, a professor of psychology at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia and author of Sleep Deprived No More. "When you're overtired, you're more likely to trip, or fall off a ladder, or cut yourself while chopping vegetables," she says. "Household accidents like that can have serious consequences.
  8. Build muscle - If you don't sleep, you cannot build muscle. Your body uses most of your night sleep (except when you are in REM) to heal any damage done to your cells and tissues while you were awake and more physically active. At the start of the night and during slow wave sleep, your body also releases a growth hormone. A lack of sleep, on the other hand is linked to muscle atrophy.

How The Paleo Diet Can Help You Sleep Better

The Paleo diet is not a high carbohydrate diet compared to the standard western diet which is actually high in carbs. Eating a high carbohydrate diet leads our bodies to be in a constant state of 'panic'. Excess sugar is added to the blood in the form of breads, pastas, cereals and refined sugars, the body has to immediately deal with the overload. Insulin releases to move the sugar into the fat cells and take it out of the blood stream. When this happens, the blood sugar goes down and often times, it drops too low. Cortisol is then released in order to move sugar back into the bloodstream. This entire process causes a panic response to the body and can result in anxiety and other physical issues.

When we reduce the amount of carbohydrates that we consume by following the Paleo diet, our body is able to relax on a chemical and physical level. Your natural blood sugar pattern is stabilized which results in more stable energy and emotions. No more erratic blood sugar cycles, hence up and down moods. 

With the addition of good quality fats into our diet (as advocated in the Paleo diet), our hormones are stabilized as well as our blood sugars. This results in a much happier, calmer and collected person. 


Facts About Sleep

  • College students are one of the most sleep deprived populations.
  • The average adults sleeps less than seven hours each night, when most need more than that.
  • Sleep researcher William Dement once claimed that the national sleep debt is a greater threat to the United States than the national monetary debt. Most people do not get an adequate amount of shut-eye. In a 2009 poll, 20 percent of Americans reported getting less than six hours of sleep per night. Why do we need sleep? The answer seems obvious. Without it, we become walking zombies, propelled through the day by caffeine and weary determination alone. 

  • 10% of the people who snore while sleeping experience “sleep apnea,” a disorder that can make the snorer stop breathing up to 300 times a night.
  • Beauty sleep is actually a thing! During sleep, your skin is able to repair any damage (UV rays, dirt, etc.) and regenerates new skin cells.
  • In a recent study of orthopedic surgical residents, they were fatigued 48% of the time and impaired 27% of the time. The study found that resident fatigue may increase the risk of medical error by 22% overall compared with historical cases.
  • Studies show that regularly sleeping too little (6 hours and less) OR regularly sleeping too much (more than 9 hours) is associated with shorter lifespan! 7-8 hours is the ideal.
  • Exercise helps you sleep. Being active during the day can aid you in sleep. But if you exercise too close to bedtime, it can backfire and keep you awake.

Sweet Dreams!