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A Secret to Health: Sleep Eight Hours During the Dark of Night

black and white image baby in blanket laying down
While I was going to college, I lived with my grandmother Dorothy in her home. At the time I was a night owl - often up late studying or socializing. She would admonish me, “Jamer (my childhood nickname), an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours of sleep after midnight.” In the decades since then, cutting-edge science has substantiated much of Dorothy’s folksy intuition, including that old adage.

Our bodies are hard-wired to sleep during the dark nighttime, and be active during the daylight hours. Many powerful hormones including melatonin, vitamin D, adrenalin, and cortisol fluctuate in a circadian rhythm that allows us to rest more deeply, heal more quickly, and rejuvenate more fully if we go get to sleep by 9:30 or 10 p.m., and rise with the sun about eight hours later. On the other hand, eight hours of sleep between 1 and 9 a.m., for example, will not be as reinvigorating or restorative for your body and brain.

And though you might believe that you function just fine on five hours of sleep, the studies would indicate otherwise. Chronic sleep deprivation can make you fatter, dumber, crankier, and even sicker. In contrast, seven to nine hours of sleep during the dark nighttime hours can calm your high blood pressure, brighten your mood, sharpen your focus, enhance your creativity, bolster your memory, boost your sex drive, and make your immune system more effective at fighting off infections and cancers.

In Good Health,

James H. O'keefe, M.D.

Picture Credit: Creative Commons Pixabay

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