Most people spend about a third of their life in slumber, but don’t know these surprising secrets of sleep.
Do you think you know sleep? Many people know the basics of how and why we sleep, such as the different sleep phases and when we dream. However, there are many surprising facts about sleep that are largely unknown and even seem counterintuitive to us. Researchers in chronobiology have been able to determine the following secrets of sleep, which you can use to lead a healthier and better-rested life.
1. Sleep makes us look and feel younger.
Night is when our skin cells repair damage from throughout the day. This has led many a woman—and even some men—to use special anti-aging night creams. However, even the most expensive cream won’t help if you don’t get enough sleep or don’t get high quality sleep. When we sleep, our body makes more growth hormone, which stimulates the regeneration of skin tissue. If you are staying awake all night, these melatonin-dependent processes never occur. This can lead to aging faster.
Over time, getting enough sleep can have a profound effect on aging. Many legendarily beautiful women make sure they get their beauty sleep; Penelope Cruz is rumored to sleep up to fourteen hours a day!
2. A glass of wine before bed may compromise your rest.
People who drink know that it can make us sleepy. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which definitely can help us to fall asleep.
However, ingesting alcohol can actually compromise sleep. People who have been drinking don’t make as much melatonin and other hormones needed to sustain restful sleep. In addition, drinking alcohol regularly can disrupt your circadian rhythm, with effects lasting long after the drinking stops. While many people believe that a glass of wine before bed will help them fall and stay asleep, this sleep is likely not as restful as it otherwise would be.
3. Nighttime snacks may keep you awake.
Here is one of the lesser-known secrets of sleep: That warm glass of milk and light snack before bed may actually prevent you from sleeping. Food intake is actually a zeitgeber, a timing cue used by your brain to determine when your body should release sleep hormones. In addition, eating before bed can make discomfort from indigestion and heartburn worse, keeping you from sleeping well. This is especially true if your favorite nighttime food and drinks contain caffeine and other chemicals that encourage wakefulness.
4. Televisions can cause insomnia.
Many people in the United States and Western Europe relax before bed with television or another screen. Reading a book on your tablet, browsing favorite websites, or catching an episode of your favorite show may feel relaxing, but the light from these devices tells your brain to stay awake. When your retinas sense bright light, they send signals to your hypothalamus indicating that it is daytime, and not time for sleep. Your brain can’t tell whether light comes from the sun or from a television, so these signals lead to delayed release of melatonin and other hormones needed to fall asleep.
5. A lack of sleep may make you gain weight.
Are you trying to lose weight? If so, losing sleep to exercise more or prepare healthy meals may be the wrong approach. Studies have found that people who don’t get adequate rest eat more and also have lower metabolisms. This combination can lead to a lot of extra pounds! Researchers believe that six hours of daily sleep is the minimum to support a healthy diet and healthy metabolism.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to living a happy and healthy life. These secrets of sleep, as well as others coming in part two of this series, can help you to get the rest your body needs to take on another day.