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The Restorative Powers of Sleep

Adequate sleep is good for your heart, your mind and your waistline

Reviewed By: Steven A. King, M.D.

Sleep keeps you healthyWant to know the secret to reducing your risk of heart disease, losing weight and keeping that youthful glow? It’s a remedy that isn’t found on any drugstore shelf. Best of all, it won’t cost you a dime. All you need to do is snuggle into bed and give your body the chance to repair, recharge and refuel your brain and body so it can overcome the damage caused during the day.

In fact, sleep experts say a deep slumber won’t just make you healthier and younger-looking, it could increase your longevity. Japanese researchers found that people with hypertension who averaged less than 7.5 hours of sleep per night had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease including stroke, heart attack and sudden cardiac death. Be careful not to oversleep, though, because too much sleep can also increase your risk for certain conditions, like a stroke.

Inadequate sleep can even lead to hypertension and diabetes in anyone. "If you are not getting the right amount of sleep, it can increase your risk of high blood pressure and insulin resistance,” says Carol Ash, D.O., medical director of the Sleep for Life Center in Somerville, NJ. “In fact, there have been studies of normal, healthy, young college students who, when they were stripped of just a couple of hours of sleep a night for a week, developed the same metabolic profile as a patient with prediabetes.”

The Sleep Diet?
Sleep’s effect on metabolism and hormonal response has some researchers thinking that good sleep habits can help with weight management. Sleep regulates ghrelin, leptin and cortisol—hormones that tell you when you’re hungry and signal when you are full. These hormones are produced and regulated during sleep, so if you don’t sleep enough some researchers believe that your hormone levels—and your sense of fullness and hunger—will be off. “If you are interrupting sleep, the level of these hormones in the blood will be abnormal and you’ll have greater weight gain and difficulty with weight loss,” Dr. Ash says.

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