The Power of Sleep

Use these 10 tips to get a good night’s sleep without medication.

| May/June 2015

We all know that getting enough sleep is crucial to our health, but many of us don’t get as much sleep as we should thanks to stress, overstimulation from everyday life, and worries that go around and around in our minds just as our heads hit the pillow.

But we need to get a grip on our sleep issues—before they trigger health problems ranging from colds and flu to heart disease and even cancer. “Sleep is necessary, but people don’t respect it in the same way they do diet and exercise for better health,” says Jill Creighton, assistant professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Stony Brook University Hospital in Hampton Bays, New York. “Sleep is so incredibly important for our health, both mental and physical. It helps protect against everything from anxiety to obesity and even cancer.”

The Power of Sleep

Why is sleep so powerful? It’s during sleep that our bodies rejuvenate and repair cell damage in everything from our hearts and blood vessels to our muscles and tissues. “Lots of positive things happen during sleep, particularly deep sleep, which occurs within about an hour of falling asleep,” says W. Christopher Winter, Medical Director of Charlottesville Neurology & Sleep Medicine in Charlottesville, Virginia. “So many systems recover during this time.”

Proper sleep helps maintain a healthful balance of hormones—from the hormones that regulate hunger (when we’re sleepier, we eat more) to those that control blood sugar (with less sleep, blood sugar levels rise—as does risk of obesity). It’s also during deep sleep that we secrete growth hormones, used by the body for growth and cell regeneration.

Getting enough sleep is also critical for proper immune function: Get enough shut-eye and we’re better able to fight off infections and illnesses. In fact, in one study in the journal Sleep, those who averaged between seven and eight hours of sleep nightly (the amount recommended) were sick less often.

Sleep is critical for normal brain functioning, too, according to recent research from the University of Oxford. Sleep serves as the “brain’s housekeeper,” helping restore and repair the brain, researchers found. Poor sleep over time causes brain shrinkage and problems with reasoning, planning, memory and problem solving.

12/19/2017 12:50:16 PM

Is anyone in this thread experiencing repetitive motion disorder? It is often diagnosed as Restless Leg but it is a little different as it can be any part or the whole body that moves in a repetitive way. It can be experienced as a way to fall asleep, neurologically soothing perhaps, or it can occur during sleep, causing the person to awaken. I am seeking information from others as to how they might have found relief from it. Thanks, Nancy Markow

12/19/2017 12:50:14 PM

Anyone on this thread dealing with repetitive motion disorder? It's categorized under the umbrella of Restless leg yet it is different. You don't have to awaken to do it, but it usually wakes you up. It can happen before you fall asleep too, neurologically soothing perhaps. I am seeking anyways a person has found relief - been able to stop it. Nancy Markow

4/14/2015 7:19:34 AM

One of the tips is to eat turkey because of the tryptophan in it. Yet, because the medical literature shows that even taking tryptophan as a supplement, getting higher doses than from foods such as turkey, doesn't really work well for insomnia or sleep problems (see ), makes it unlikely that this amino acid is the reason for a huge impact on sleep quality.

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