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The power of sleep

Getting enough sleep is just as important as eating a healthy diet and exercising to control your weight, according to sleep experts.
Sleep to be thinner, smarter and healthier.

In an era when many of us fail to get the recommended eight hours a night – artificially buoyed by coffee, sugar and other stimulants – experts warn we will pay the price in poorer health, wider waistbands, lower moods and shorter lives unless we find a way to change our habits.

“The evidence in favour of sleep is so clear,” says Danny Eckert, senior research fellow at Neuroscience Australia and associate professor at the University of NSW.

Part of the because while we’re sleeping, neuroscientists have found the brain goes into personal organiser mode, filing away information, making new connections and throwing away rubbish we don’t need.

Dorothy Bruck, director of the Sleep Health Foundation and professor of psychology at Victoria University, explains, “A lot of people think you fall asleep and your brain turns off but it’s absolutely not the case”.

Long term, if we don’t get enough sleep, brain cells can become poisoned and die and “rubbish” can accumulate, meaning the brain may essentially age prematurely.

And even in the short term, says Prof Eckert, research has shown sleep deprivation can raise young people’s blood sugar levels to pre-diabetic levels in the space of a week.

It’s not only your brain that’s busy; your body also switches into caretaker mode, producing growth hormone, repairing muscle, building bone, breaking down sugars and boosting skin elasticity. Your whole body is being scanned, repaired and rebooted.

Combined with inflammation in the body, this may put them at heightened risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes unless they get adequate sleep again.

Short changing on sleep also been shown to hinder mental retention, an important factor for Year 12 students studying for final exams.

“Impaired sleep literally affects every cell in your body organ in your body,” says Assoc Prof Eckert.

The Weekly Online has partnered with MYER who shared some tips on how to get better sleep.

  • Learn to use your bed only for sleep and follow a regular wake-up schedule.

  • Keep your bedroom cool and maintain a relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom.

  • Go to bed only when you are sleepy. Get out of bed if you can’t fall asleep within 10-15 minutes and return when sleepy.

  • A good mattress and supportive pillows will do wonders for your sleep.

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