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The Importance of Sound Sleep

By Greg Samples


Originally published in Everything Knoxville in December, 2014

"The children were nestled all snug in their beds; While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads". That phrase will doubtless be recited scores of times this month and children might find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve. Yet millions of American adults will experience sleep disturbances on a nightly basis and will often resort to medications to assist them. Chronic sleep deprivation may have profound ramifications leading to complications including accidents, loss of mental acuity, circulatory disorders, decreased libido, and emotional turmoil. It is also thought to have a considerable effect on the nation’s productivity and economy.

Sleep is not just a time to rest. Important functions happen during sleep such as the consolidation of memory for things recently learned. But perhaps the most important function during sleep is the removal of toxins. Lactic acid, a waste product of muscle activity, as well as toxins ingested and inhaled throughout the day, are ushered out of the body during sleep as alkaline minerals used for processes during awake functions become available to buffer the toxins in their journey out of the body. The more sound our sleep, the more efficient the removal of toxins becomes. The more efficient the removal of toxins becomes, the healthier we are.

Most of us are aware that we can promote sound sleep by getting adequate exercise and reducing the amount of stress in our life. One of the most important ways to promote sound sleep, however, is by being mindful of what we eat and when we eat it. All food, but especially carbohydrates, fuels the nervous system and generates mental activity. Mental activity, of course, continues during sleep, but the more enlivened it is the lighter our sleep will be. Deep sleep generates a faster recovery from fatigue, and also a more efficient discharge of toxins. For this reason, it has been suggested that we should consume nothing for the three hours immediately before we go to sleep. This can be difficult to do unless our evening meal is balanced with an ample supply of complex carbohydrates most easily found in whole grains. Complex carbohydrates provide a steady supply of energy and will alleviate cravings for candy and snacks. Salt can also increase cravings for simple sweets, and can spark physical energy as well.

For these reasons, make sure your evening meal consists of a substantial amount of complex carbohydrates, and that the salt content is modest. These two simple actions can have far reaching effects, and your vision won’t be clouded by sugar-plums.

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