“Healthy sleep has been empirically proven to be the single most important determinant in predicting longevity, more important than diet, exercise, or heredity…” – William C. Dement M.D., Ph.D.
I listened to a call recently about the importance of getting good sleep. Everybody has heard by now that we should get about 8 hours of sleep each night to stay healthy and that depriving ourselves of sleep can lead to problems.
There are really two areas that sleep plays a big part in, stress and memory. First let’s deal with stress, and that’s exactly what sleep does. It deals with stress. All day long we are running around doing this, that and the other and we don’t take much time out to relax. All of this running about, running on adrenaline, keeps our bodies in a constant state of stress. This shuts down the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the one responsible for digestion, waste elimination, and immunity among others. That means that as we are going at full steam, we aren’t using the good stuff, getting rid of the bad stuff, and we are more susceptible to invaders.
Sleep is the time that we let the body feel safe and to relax, allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to engage more fully. The digestive system can now turn up and process the food we take in during the day and use it to the best benefit. Good stuff can get to the cells and the waste can be removed and queued up for elimination. It also lets the immune system go through the body and deal with any bacteria, viruses, and anything else that shouldn’t be there. The body can also eliminate a lot of the acidity that was created by all of the activity during the day.
While we sleep, our brains also process everything that happened during the day. It takes anything it sees as important enough and makes a memory of it so that we can access it later.
If we short the body by only sleeping a few hours, it doesn’t have enough time to do all of that work. If the work doesn’t get done, then poorly digested food and waste material can pile up and make the body toxic. Uncaught viruses and bacteria have a better chance to multiply to the point where they can cause us to get sick. And umm…. oh yeah …. memory problems because the brain didn’t have a chance to process all of the day before.
So, if it is after 8PM where you are, finish up what you’re doing and go get some sleep.
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