Getting Enough Sleep?

It’s well known that lack of adequate sleep can profoundly affect health and longevity. It can negatively impact the cardiovascular system, metabolism and blood sugar, cognition and learning, lead to anxiety and depression, lower performance and creativity, and increase your risk of accidents.

It disrupts the body’s ability to clear out toxins and repair. Neuron degeneration can set in, affecting memory formation and leading to dementia. When you upset your circadian rhythm, you increase the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune function, diabetes, cancer and more. Sleep deprivation also causes premature aging as growth hormone production is affected.

A Swedish study, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, looked at the sleep habits of almost 43,000 people, then 13 years later, followed up. It found that people who slept five or fewer hours a night, or more than eight hours a night, had worse health outcomes and higher mortality compared with those who regularly got seven hours. A surprising finding of the study was that when short sleepers—six hours or slightly less—slept in on weekends, their mortality rate didn’t differ from those who consistently slept seven hours. But this was true only for people under age 65. Because there was not a huge deficit, short sleepers could compensate with more sleep on weekends.

The co-author of the study said that seven hours is not a hard and fast rule; some need more, others less. You can tell by how well you function without the use of caffeine and other stimulants. As with your diet, you can splurge a little but not on a regular basis.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans gets inadequate sleep! If you’re one of them, and you care about your health and longevity, you may want to examine your lifestyle and make some changes in your self-care and bedtime routines.

Getting regular massage and bodywork can have a positive impact on your nervous system and deep sleep patterns so that the sleep you get will be more beneficial. Therapeutic touch will calm your nervous system’s stress response and promote relaxation, which is necessary for body repair. If you’re waking often so you’re not getting deep sleep, one cause may be muscle tension in your upper body that is causing shallow breathing and a reduction in oxygen intake. Massage that releases deep tension can be helpful. Calming practices such as restorative yoga and breathwork will also facilitate relaxation and better quality sleep.

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