Can Sleep Save Your Life?

October 5, 2011

New research has found that sleep is more important to our health than most people think.

Sleep experts claim that lack of quality sleep puts stress on the body, causing the heart to beat faster and increasing the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. One study by the University of Warwick in the UK has shown that sleeping less than six hours a night or having disturbed sleep results in a 48 per cent greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease.

Another study conducted at the Harvard Medical School found that those getting the least deep sleep were 83 per cent more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, increasing the risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Sleep experts agree that eight hours is the ideal nights’ sleep time. Professor Colin Espie, director of Glasgow University’s sleep centre, told The Independent, “Sleep is nature’s way of providing us with rest, recovery and energy. There is nothing else that does the same thing.

“But too many of us treat sleep like a commodity. We disrespect it – even treat it as a nuisance that gets in the way of waking hours.”

Other health problems associated with the lack of sleep include an increased chance of obesity, diabetes and a deficient immune system.

Depression has also been linked to poor sleep. “Lack of sleep needs to be treated as a major health issue,” says Dr Dan Robotham, senior researcher at the UK’s Mental Health Foundation. “We are all au fait with the importance of diet and exercise, but sleep is often ignored.”

Here’s how to get an ideal eight hours’ sleep a night:

1. Do not watch TV or use the computer before going to sleep. You need to ‘switch off’ your brain from any distractions.

2. Try and go to sleep and wake up at the same time: this programmes your body to sleep better and deeper.

3. Exercise can help improve sleep, but not if done too close to bedtime. Ideally do a little exercise 1-2 hours before sleep.

4. Turn your bedroom into an inviting space. Treat yourself to new sheets, light candles or play soft music.

5. Are you sleeping on the right mattress and pillows? It might be time to replace them, especially if they are more than 10 years old or not providing proper support.

Do you get enough sleep?

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