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Sleep – is it the secret sauce to health and wellness?

Sleep is as important, if not more, as our nutrition, exercise, stress management and all of those other pieces that lead us to live a happy, healthy, energized and connected life.

When we sleep – true deep sleep – and provide our bodies with that time to rest, we activate several metabolic processes that allow us to repair, reset, detox, rejuvenate and build our cellular energy.

If we allow our bodies to naturally activate these systems by making the right lifestyle choices, we can help heal ourselves simply by honoring one of the most natural processes we know.

Jennifer Roe

When we give our brains rest at night, it not only recharges and helps with brain energy and brain fatigue, it also activates the glymphatic system or the flushing of our glial cells so our body is able to rid itself of the plaque and the yucky stuff. This is literally the cleansing of the central nervous system. There is research that shows that this brain cleansing is an important factor in combating Alzheimer’s disease. It doesn’t happen in the way we need it to when we are awake, it happens during deep, restorative sleep.

Autophagy can occur while we are sleeping. This is key to allowing the rejuvenation of our cells and accessing more cellular energy. It is our body’s way of “taking out the trash” or cleaning out the old in order to bring in the new. It is a very important piece to our health, especially as we age.

Mitochondria are our body’s cellular engine, and keeping them in an energetic mode is one of the keys to living a healthy, energetic and vibrant life. Allowing our body to do what it needs to do during rest helps with recharging and refueling these valuable pieces to our energy and health.

There are a multitude of benefits that sleep provides us in addition to the processes mentioned above. It stimulates hormones and neurotransmitters that help regulate our appetites, metabolism and stress, as well as so many other crucial functions. This is when our memory consolidation occurs and allows for the storage of new memories; it increases our energy; strengthens our immune system; allows our brains to be more focused, alert, creative, as well as bettering our mood and even increasing our sex drive!

Not getting enough sleep can lead to obesity by slowing your metabolism and actually increasing your appetite (as well as cravings for the not so good stuff like processed foods and sugar); it can weaken your immune system; impair memory and brain function; can contribute to and worsen a list of diseases and disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, certain dementias, arthritis, depression and anxiety just to name a few; it can also accelerate the aging process.

Sleep is one of our No. 1 tools in order to live a healthy life. It is not only about the number of hours we get each night but the quality of those hours. In this day and age, we are constantly going, constantly exerting energy, and if we don’t allow ourselves the time we need to recharge, rejuvenate and replenish that energy, we will eventually deplete ourselves.

Let’s live young and take the right steps to take care of our health and well-being.

Jennifer Roe is a master level Red Hat Qigong practitioner, an integrative nutritional health and wellness coach, a facilitator of women’s circles, programs and more. Her office is at Pura Vida in Durango. For more information, visit www. puravidahealthcare.com and/or www.thehealingroe.com.