Want to remain active as you age? Sleep more.

That sounds like an oxymoron, but it makes perfect sense.

I love my bed. It’s a sanctuary at the end of the day, a place to dream and reflect, and a cozy place to snuggle up with my hubby. Most of us like sleeping and are none too happy when we’re interrupted in the middle of it.

But the truth is, we are a sleep-deprived nation, and it plays a significant role in our aging process. Lack of sleep strongly correlates with an increase in heart disease and a decrease in immunity. Lack of sleep makes us feel old and encourages us to overeat. Research shows that when sleep-deprived, we have lower levels of the appetite-regulating hormone, leptin, meaning we are consistently hungrier.

The complex mechanisms for falling asleep and staying asleep are beyond the scope of this article, but here’s a snapshot of shuteye: The pineal gland, buried deeply in the center of our brain, senses our exposure to light and dictates our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm governs our sleep and wake cycles.

Scientific research has shown that the pineal gland plays a role in aging. Young pineal glands placed in aging mice reversed aging, and an old pineal gland placed in young mice accelerated aging. A healthy pineal gland produces melatonin, which regulates sleep, among other things. The neurotransmitter, serotonin converts to melatonin when the pineal gland senses “lights out”. As we age, our ability to produce melatonin declines and our receptors wear out.

(Is THAT why teenagers sleep soundly until noon, while we toss and turn all night?)

Sleep provides more than rest and relaxation for our bodies, it restores our cognitive abilities. It allows us to consolidate the information we receive throughout the day, and then filter, process and store that information in our memories. Sleep performs the repair and maintenance we need to keep going without breaking down.

Setting the stage is the simplest and safest first step to sound sleep.

Send these sleep signals:

• Dim the lights to signal your pineal gland.
• Slow down, meaning no TV or laptop, which stimulates your senses and sends the wrong message.
• Set a standard time for sleep and wake cycle. This resets your circadian rhythm. (If you need an alarm clock to wake up, you need more sleep.)
• Eliminate noise or override it “white noise” or guided meditations.
• Seriously, sex is good for sound sleep.
• Splurge on smooth or silky sheets and a quality mattress. After all, you should be spending 1/3 of your life here!
• Experiment with eliminating alcohol and caffeine or eating and exercising within 3 hours of bedtime. These all have the potential to disturb sleep.
• Use caution with hot tea or warm milk before bed. It takes about 90 minutes for your body to metabolize liquids, so you’ll need to jump out of bed just as you’re falling deeply asleep.

Sleep Soundly = Stay Young

Author's Bio: 

I’m Margi McDaniel, Master Nutrition Therapist and Renew Your Radiance Expert. I love inspiring my clients to take action and make lasting changes to renew their radiance and extend their health span.

My specialty is hormonal imbalance, adrenal exhaustion and stubborn weight loss. In my practice, I identify the metabolic roots of these conditions and address them with a powerful combination of counseling, nutritional support, and botanical medicine.