• Health: Are you getting enough sleep?

Health: Are you getting enough sleep?

We’re often told we should have at least eight hours of sleep a night.

Why should we be getting that much sleep, and does it matter?

Hazel Thomas is a registered clinical nutritionist who focuses on gut health and a healthy lifestyle for overall wellbeing.

Well, yes it matters! I’ve been reading a book by Matthew Walker titled ‘Why We Sleep’. Now this Neuroscientist knows his stuff and it’s all research based. The bottom line is that routinely getting less than six or seven hours sleep a night mucks up your immune system and more than doubles the risk of you getting cancer.

As a nutritionist with a particular interest in the gut and its role in your immune system, this is fascinating information to me. Around 70% to 80% of your immune system is situated in your gut. If your gut is not working optimally it will have knock on effects throughout your body systems. There is also a gut brain connection and if your gut is not functioning well, neither will your brain.

Research has shown that lack of sleep is a key lifestyle factor that will determine whether you will get Alzheimer’s or not. Going without sleep for a week has shown to effect a person’s blood sugars to such an extent, they would be classified as pre-diabetic.

Another down side of being tired is that you tend to eat more. Too little sleep will increase the hormone that makes you feel hungry and suppresses the companion hormone that would normally signal that you are full. It’s guaranteed that even if you are full, you will want to eat more.

Not giving your body the sleep it needs will lead to weight gain. If you do go on a diet but don’t get your sleep, the weight you do lose will come from lean body mass, not fat.

Getting enough sleep provides us with a multitude of health benefits. It allows us to ‘digest’ what we have learnt and remember it. It allows us to make logical decisions and choices when awake.

Sleep recalibrates our emotional brain circuits. It allows the ‘restocking ‘of the armoury of our immune system so that we can fight malignancy, prevent infection and ward off all manner of illnesses.

Sleep helps us to regulate our weight and maintains flourishing gut flora, which have so many functions and are critical to our health. Sleep also keeps our heart healthy.

Tips to help you live a healthy and abundant life. Stick to a time schedule, aim to go to bed and get up at the same time each day.

Sleeping longer on weekends won’t fully make up for lack of sleep during the week. Aim to exercise for 30 minutes on most days but not later than three hours before bedtime. Avoid caffeinated drinks, since their effects can take up to eight hours to wear off fully.

Avoid alcohol before bed, since it robs you of deeper sleep. Don’t eat large meals before bed, a small snack would be fine. Avoid screen time an hour before bed and make time to relax by having a bath, listening to relaxing music or reading.

The bottom line: “The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life span”.

Sadly, human beings are the only species that deprive themselves of sleep, without benefiting in any positive way. The best prescription for many individuals, in addition to improving their diet, would be to sleep. Sleep is a key ingredient in resetting our brain and body health each day.