Studies Reveal Surprising Sleep Benefits
It seems as though doctors usually talk about sleep in terms of what goes wrong when you don’t get enough.
Today, I’d like to reverse that… and tell you about a couple of things that can go very, very right for you when you’re sleeping well. And I’ll top it off with three tricks to help you get more and better sleep.
First, the surprising results of a recent study…
Did you know that sleeping well is good for your bladder?
A study of 4,145 Boston-area men and women discovered that people who sleep better also have fewer bladder problems. People who slept soundly and more than 5 hours a night were far less likely to develop bladder and urinary tract problems over the next 5 years.1
Another recent study revealed that sleep is key to healthy weight loss.
Conventional wisdom says you tend to eat more when you’re not sleeping well. So getting a good night’s rest has been considered good diet advice.
But now we know its good advice for another reason. Getting a good night’s sleep encourages the right kind of weight loss. Here’s what I mean….
Researchers split a group of overweight men and women into two groups and put them on a reduced-calorie diet.
One group was allowed 8.5 hours of sleep a night for a week. The other group was only given 5.5 hours of sleep. Then the groups switched sleep “allowances” for a week.
Sleeping only 5.5 hours a night changed both groups’ weight loss. But not by amount… by quality. Short sleepers burned 55% less fat and 60% more lean muscle than long sleepers.2
In other words, sleeping well at night could help you build a trimmer, more toned body.
So how do you take advantage of sleep’s benefits? Here are three ways to get more and better sleep – naturally.
Chances are your mother, grandmother or even a babysitter used to sing you to sleep from time to time. It turns out they had the right idea.
Chinese doctors tested music on two groups of mature adults (aged 60 – 83 years). When listening to music at bedtime, both groups fell asleep faster and slept longer and more soundly than when they didn’t listen to music. Plus, they functioned better in the daytime, too.3
Simply playing a music CD quietly while getting ready for bed could be enough to improve the quality of your sleep.
Exercise is another well-known sleep enhancer. But it turns out that the type of exercise can make a big difference.
118 people with mild sleep problems took part in an Oregon study. Some did low-impact aerobic exercise, while others practiced Tai chi both groups exercised for the same length of time each week. And both were sleeping better after 24 weeks.
But the improvements weren’t equal.
The Tai chi group averaged 48 minutes more sleep per night than the low-impact group. And they fell asleep about 18 minutes faster, too.4
That may not sound like a big difference, but let’s look at it another way. The Tai chi group spent 2 hours less every week lying awake. And they got more than 5-1/2 extra hours of sleep.
Over the course of a year, that’s 291 extra hours of sleep! Just by using a different form of exercise.
Finally, a medical sleep clinic in France discovered another way to maximize your sleep time. It’s called “thermoneutrality.”
That’s basically a fancy way to say there’s an ideal temperature for getting maximum sleep. If you wear pajamas or a nightgown – or if you sleep under the covers – the ideal room temperature is 60 – 66 degrees.5
Even faithful energy-savers rarely set their thermostats below 68 in the winter. And most bedrooms are much warmer than that in the summer.
This last trick may not be practical for everyone – it uses more energy. But if you haven’t been getting the sleep you need, it could help. And when you consider all the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep… it may be worth a try.
Dr Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
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