Thursday, December 23, 2010

Three Pillars

Have you ever heard of the three pillars to health? Can you guess what they are? Diet...Exercise...and Sleep. The first two are frequently addressed and most understand how a balanced diet and consistent exercise benefit their health. Sleep, however, isn't as accepted and practiced.

Sleep is critical for both the brain and the body. While sleeping, your brain consolidates memory and reduces psychological stress. What does it do for the body, though? It plays a large role in regulating metabolism and strengthening your immune system - two very essential things to health. Furthermore, according to the "Harvard Health News," consistent sleep deprivation causes weight gain by directing the body to store more carbohydrates.
This is because when you get a good night's sleep--at least 8 hours--your body produces the hormone leptin. This hormone helps regulate appetite and allows you to feel full and satisfied after a meal. Adequate rest also regulates the hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite. Skimping on sleep is a double whammy...less leptin and more you feel less satisfied after eating and eat more food more often.
Not enough sleep also effects energy level, which can frequently translate into your workout. When you are consistently not getting enough sleep, you most likely aren't getting much out of your workouts because you are so tired.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that fewer than 7 hours of sleep each night is associated with increased risk for obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.
So here are some tips for sleeping better:
1. set a regular bedtime and allow time to wind down before that set time so your body is ready to fall asleep
2. turn off the TV and avoid computer screens or doing active things less than an hour before you plan on going to bed
3. keep the temperature a bit cooler - your body does better cool than hot at night
4. encourage other people in your house to go to bed about the same time so there aren't unnecessary noises and stimulation going on

Sleep Tight!

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