At a time when most of society revolves around maximising hours and burning the candle at both ends, it is time to stop and consider the fact that efficiency may in fact be increased if we were simply to spend more time sleeping!
People who continually get less than enough sleep feel lethargic, don’t perform as well, and find their digestion and general health suffering. Sleep is essential for brain health too. While our bodies rest, the brain takes the opportunity to repair the neurons so that we are mentally sharp the following day. Insufficient sleep leads to neurons which are depleted and malfunctioning. Long term, this impacts on mood, behaviour, and physical co-ordination.
So how much is enough? You will need to factor in diet, stress levels, and energy output (exercise) to get an idea of how much sleep is right for you. Parents of infants and toddlers are the exception – in this case, aim to sleep and nap whenever the opportunity arises! Most primates in the wild get a stretch of about 10-14 hours per night, which indicates that humans should aim for around 10-12 continuous hours…probably closer to what we would naturally achieve if it weren’t for artificial lighting, television, computers and so forth.
When we sleep, the body produces HGH (Human Growth Hormone). HGH is crucial for skin cell renewal – sufficient sleep is the ultimate in anti-ageing treatments! If you retire to bed by 9pm, your immune system has the chance to function optimally, with physical repair taking place within our body between the hours of 10pm-2am. Between 2-6am the brain releases chemicals which enhance the immune system, which is why lack of sleep leads to an increased susceptibility to illness.
The two main processes in our bodies are anabolism and catabolism. Catabolism (breaking down of substances into energy and waste products) occurs mainly during active periods, and anabolism (regeneration, growth and repair) is largely occurring during rest. Both are ongoing, and together they equate to metabolism. If one or both are out of balance then so too will be our immune functioning, hormone levels, mental state, ageing process, energy levels, and emotional wellbeing.
The hours before midnight are most important to the rest and rejuvenation process, so even if you are unable to get a full 10-12 hours, make sure that you get to bed before the witching hour!