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August 2020 Newsletter
As we mentioned a few times in our previous Newsletters the “holy trinity” of a healthy lifestyle is nutrition, exercise and good sleep. This month we will guide you through the complexity of the third pillar of a good health: sleep. Indeed, we spend about 1/3 of our life sleeping, yet we still have so much to learn in order to optimize it. Sleep is not a passive period of unconscious rest as it was thought until the 1950s. It is rather an essential process to the rejuvenation of the body and mind.
Over the course of the night, the body will go through a five-stage cycle four to six times, spending an average of 90 minutes in each stage.
Stage One: Lasting only a few minutes this is the phase when we begin to fall asleep.
Stage Two: It is the light stage, lasting from about 30 to 60 minutes. Our muscles become more relaxed and we slow down our brain activity.
Stage Three: We enter now the deep sleep phases (20 to 40 minutes) when it becomes more difficult to wake up although we may have some body movements. The body performs a variety of important health-promoting tasks such as tissue repair, cell regeneration and strengthening of the immune system.
REM: The Rapid Eye Movement stage occurs about 90 mn after we fall asleep. This is the primary dreaming stage of sleep. Our heart rate, breathing, and eye movement all speed up and our brain becomes more active, processing things that we have learned during the day to help us form memories and boost feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin.
Sleep is a vital, sometimes neglected, component of our overall health and well-being. It is not just important because it enables the body to be fit and ready for another day. When we sleep, our bodies also takes time to repair muscles, sort memories, strengthen our immune system or manage hormones. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who do not because hormones released during our sleep aid appetite control. It is now proven that short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity.
Other studies have also shown a strong correlation between short sleep duration and type 2 diabetes, increased risk of heart disease and even cancer. A study in the International Journal of Cancer found an increase of 30% of breast cancer for women having irregular and shorter sleep schedules.
How much sleep do we need in order to get all these health benefits? It varies of course depending on age and for each individual, but most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well, sometimes leading to sleep disorders. Our body has a natural time-keeping clock known as the circadian rhythm, a sort of internal timer that runs constantly, cycling between alertness and sleepiness. Ideally we should adapt this internal cycle to the sun’s cycle through daily habits:
– Maintain a consistent sleep schedule (even for wake-up time, including in the week end)
– Get exposure to outdoor light early in the morning
– Avoid late meals: ideally your body should not get any food for 12 to 14 hours after dinner
– Limit nightly screen use as much as possible: night time light exposure disturbs our Circadian rhythm and the blue light emitted in large amount by smart phones and computers is the worst in this regard
– Establish a relaxing bedtime routine
It is important to review on a regular basis our habits regarding sleeping patterns and environment. Without a full night of sleep, our body and mind are deprived of the essential elements needed to help us conquer the day. It is an important topic and HECL will provide additional information on sleep in the coming months.
The HEC Team.
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