More and more scientists are finding links between adequate amounts of sleep and human health on so many levels. A recent article by Newsweek seen here speaks of the myriad problems associated with sleep deprivation. The most surprising thing for me was the statement that “Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania restricted volunteers to less than six hours in bed per night for two weeks. The volunteers perceived only a small increase in sleepiness and thought they were functioning relatively normally. However, formal testing showed that their cognitive abilities and reaction times progressively declined during the two weeks. By the end of the two-week test, they were as impaired as subjects who had been awake continuously for 48 hours.”

Rather astounding really, and somewhat frightening. So many of us in our hurried lives skimp on sleep, and only now is science becoming truly aware of the toll it takes on us. Hormone levels are affected, never in good ways. And there’s a surprising link between lack of sleep and weight gain. Really.

As far back as 2004, USA Today did a story highlighting the link, see it here. Among other things, the studies quoted in the article show “sleep deprivation activates a small part of the hypothalamus, the region of the brain that also is involved in appetite regulation.” Too little sleep, and we find ourselves craving carbs and gaining weight.

And while for some it might take some time to teach ourselves to sleep more, (especially those who suffer from insomnia), for most of us it’s often just a matter of making sleep a priority. Turn off the tv, put down the book, and go to bed early. Get yourself some light blocking curtains, a sound machine, even a sleep mask (as my friend suggests in The Yummy List), go for that Zsa Zsa look! Whatever it takes to get a minimum of 7-9 hours. If you’re having trouble sleeping, two things I’ve used that help are Badger Sleep Balm, and the homeopathic remedy Calms Forte. Both are natural, non-habit forming, and in my experience, really help.

I’ve been working on increasing my sleep time of late, and one of the things that most interests me is that since doing so, I am remembering my dreams, where before I wasn’t. Now, I haven’t done a lot of research yet on the differences between REM and NREM dreaming and their effects on our physiology, but I’m betting if I do, I’ll find a link (more on that in a later post perhaps.) But I can’t help but think that more dreams are a sign that more sleep is A Good Thing. And hey, if it helps me lose some weight, that would be all right too!

So give it a try, you never know how it might help. In this hectic day and age we all too often feel tied to our work/cell phones/email. Set yourself free of those chains, if only at night, and sleep!