Fountain of Youth - Part 2
More and more studies are showing that people are sleeping less and less these days. Whether it be due to the fact that we watch too much tv, spend too much time on the internet, or just plain old insomnia, human beings are sleeping far less than we should. This can lead to a myriad of health problems over a long period of time as we need our sleep to rejuvenate and restore our bodies.
Not only that, but everyday life, and especially exercise, causes bodily wear and tear that needs to be rebuilt while we catch some z's. Sleep has been shown to increase levels of growth hormone which helps to rebuild and restore those tissues that have degenerated throughout our daily lives.
Now, the question is, how much sleep does one need? There are those that claim that they can run on just a few hours every night, and those that claim that they, "NEED 10 hours or I am a zombie!". For the most part, everyone should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Many people interpret sleep as a passive action, because we need to be relaxed, etc. But actually, sleep is very active. As I said earlier, our bodies restore and rebuild while we are sleeping so as soon as we begin to doze off, the brain sends out waves of hormones that take the body through several sleep "stages", each having its own purpose.
Drugs such as alcohol can help initiate sleep, but actually make it more difficult to progress into a deep sleep, leaving you feeling tired and cranky when you wake up the next morning.
Diet and exercise can also effect our sleeping patterns. What we eat and when can cause different mood and energy levels that can either inhibit or completely prevent a good night's sleep. Exercise can have a beneficial effect as not only does it tax the body and make you sleepy, but studies have shown that the improved circulation and hormone distribution allows for an easier time falling asleep and also staying asleep.
When it comes down to it, a balanced diet and a lifestyle enriched with regular bouts of intense exercise will help the body initiate and follow a healthy sleeping pattern. I think of sleep like the porridge temperature from Goldilocks and the Three Bears though, as not enough, and too much sleep over a period of time can have negative effects. You are better off sticking with your 7-9 hour range with naps when needed (and appropriate) to keep your body aging gracefully!