Sleep Makes a Real Difference

Tired eating in bed

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Eating a balanced diet and exercising are both parts of living a healthy lifestyle. But there is an important factor that’s often overlooked—sleep. Adults should get seven to eight hours of sleep every night, yet many people get far less. Your health suffers when sleep isn’t a priority. By getting enough rest, you’ll reduce your risk of obesity, boost your immune system, and decrease your chances of developing conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Sleep and Appetite

Sleep deprivation changes the way the body releases the hormones that control appetite. As a complex system, your body hosts many interactions that determine its appetite. But, two of the biggest contributors are the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Lack of sleep causes levels of these hormones to change, leaving you feeling more hungry than usual.

Not only do you feel more hungry when you’re tired, but you tend to crave high-fat, sugary foods. Eating foods that add extra calories without much nutritional value often leads to unwanted weight gain. Getting enough sleep gives you the chance to bring and keep your appetite under control.

Better Sleep = Better Immune System

Your body does serious work while you sleep. During resting hours, the body does much of its maintenance work. The immune system rebuilds itself while you’re asleep. People who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation experience more inflammation, which leads to infection and lower T-cell counts (T-cells help fight off infection).

Sleep also plays a role in fighting off far more than the common cold. Adequate sleep helps prevent and/or control conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The body simply needs rest to work at peak efficiency.

How to Get Better Sleep

Knowing the benefits of sleep doesn’t always make getting that full seven hours any easier. Medical conditions, work schedules, and stress can all interfere with getting the rest you need. You can set yourself up for better sleep by following a few tips:

  • Set a Consistent Bedtime: The body follows signals from the brain and works in rhythms and cycles. When you keep a consistent bedtime, your body is better able to follow the brain signals that keep everything running normally

  • Keep a Consistent Wake Time: When it’s time to wake, your brain sends signals that raise your body temperature amongst other things to bring you out of deep sleep. A consistent wake time helps your body send and receive the ‘wake up’ message and respond accordingly.

  • Healthy Sleep Environment: A bedroom devoted solely to sleep gives you the best chances of adequate rest. A comfortable mattress suited to your preferred sleeping position, cool nighttime temperatures, and complete darkness all contribute to better sleep.

  • Limit Screen Time: The bright light from televisions, computers, smartphones, and e-readers is enough to confuse your brain into thinking it’s time to be awake. Shut down your screens at least an hour before bedtime to make sure your body is able to follow its natural rhythms.

  • Eat for Better Sleep: Caffeine keeps you buzzing, and alcohol may make you feel sleepy at first, but it’s been shown to cause wakefulness during the night. Stop drinking both at least four hours before bedtime. High-fat foods eaten close to bedtime can leave you tossing and uncomfortably turning. A well-balanced dinner eaten a few hours before you plan to go to bed sets you up for the best night’s rest.

Selina Hall is an expert on sleep health and wellness for She believes that sleep is one of the most important pillars of health. Selina lives in Portland, Oregon. She sleeps best under a handmade quilt passed down from her great-grandmother.

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