How To Get a Good Night's Sleep
A good night's sleep...
Overlooking the single most important thing you can do for your health is easy with all the clamor surrounding various health products in the marketplace. But sleep -- good-quality sleep -- goes far and beyond those products when it comes to restoring your health. And best of all, sleep is free.
Organizing your life so you get the highest quality sleep possible is well worth the effort. And quantity doesn't necessarily equal quality: You may sleep for many hours, but if your sleep isn't deep enough, or if your sleep cycle is disturbed, you may still be at greater risk for illness. A simple way to gauge the quality of your sleep is to see how refreshed you feel when you wake up.
A Matter of Hormones
Part of sleep's effect lies in hormones. During deep sleep the production of growth hormone is at its peak. Growth hormone speeds the absorption of nutrients and amino acids into your cells, and aids the healing of tissues throughout your body. The hormone also stimulates your bone marrow, where your immune system cells are born.
Melatonin, often called the sleep hormone, is also produced during sleep. This hormone inhibits tumors from growing, prevents viral infections, stimulates your immune system, increases antibodies in your saliva, has antioxidant properties and enhances the quality of sleep.
Rhythm and Blues
Some studies show the value of maintaining a steady and natural rhythm in sleep patterns.
Researchers at the University of Toronto Centre for Sleep and Chronobiology are uncovering important insights about how sleep heals. Dr. Harvey Moldofsky and his colleagues studied the natural rhythm of sleep by interrupting the sleep of a group of medical students. Over several nights, each time the students entered a deep-sleep phase, called the "non-REM" or "delta" phase, the researchers would interfere. After a few nights of these disruptions, the students developed the classic symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
Moldofsky conducted another study examining how the immune system reacts to sleep deprivation. Researchers examined natural killer cells -- a component of the immune system that attacks bacteria, viruses and tumors. During the study, 23 men slept about eight hours the first four nights. On the fifth night, researchers woke the men up at 3 a.m., giving them four hours less sleep than usual. This one insult to their sleep pattern caused the activity of the natural killer cells to decrease by more than one-fourth the next day.
Five Keys to Optimal Sleep
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