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Your Best, Most Relaxing, Most Rejuvenating and Healthiest Sleep Starts Right Now

I'm always on the lookout for new ways to keep healthy. And so I've kept up to date on the latest research that's shown that people who don't get enough sleep are at greater risk of illness and sudden health crises and events.

One of the studies I read had this alarming finding: If you sleep for 6 hours per night or fewer, you are likely to have dysfunctional endothelial cells — those are the cells that line your blood vessels. People who slept less had arteries that didn't dilate and constrict as well as those who get enough sleep. You may have already known that a lack of sleep can cause health issues. But what no one knew was why a lack of sleep can do damage, to, say, your heart.

A team of scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder discovered that the key lies in physiological regulators knowns as microRNAs. These small molecules suppress the gene expression of certain proteins in your cells. They act like cellular brakes to keep the function of your cells from going haywire.

The researchers measured the effect of insufficient sleep on those circulating microRNA signatures that are associated with inflammation, immune system function, and blood vessel health. They compared the levels of those microRNAs to the length of sleep in two groups of people — those that slept 7 to 8.5 hours nightly and those that slept 5 to 6.8 hours a night. And, they found that people who slept less than seven hours each night have 40 to 60 percent lower levels of those microRNAs than people who slept enough.

"Why 7 or 8 hours seems to be the magic number is unclear," said senior author Christopher DeSouza, a professor of Integrative Physiology. "However, it is plausible that people need at least 7 hours of sleep per night to maintain levels of important physiological regulators, such as microRNAs."

There you have it. Sleep matters for health, and healthy sleep is 7 or 8 hours. This means that in order to protect your heart health, you shouldn't underestimate the importance of a good night's sleep since without it, the cells of your blood vessels are left without the regulation they need to remain healthy.

I sleep well, but it all came about by accident. I was reading the book The Insomnia Workbook, and author Stephanie Silberman, Ph.D., suggests not letting your daily stresses wreck your sleep schedule. When you sleep isn't something most people are concerned with, only that you sleep.

Her point is, you should try to get to sleep at the same time each day, and then, if you find yourself tossing and turning, Silberman recommends "thought stopping." You simply picture a stop sign each time your mind starts to worry or when your brain "can't stop," as many people who can't sleep well complain of. This is exceedingly helpful.

Another technique you can use is called progressive muscle relaxation. This involves the tightening and releasing of muscle groups. Silberman suggests starting with your toes and working your way up your entire body in five-second increments. Continue to breathe calmly.

Third, use nutrients and calming herbs. Melatonin, of course, but, essential oils like lavender as well. Essential oils are nature's hidden miracle makers. They are not "essential" in the sense vitamins are, where they are essential to the function of your body and you cannot live without them. They are essential in that they are the essence of various healing herbs, extracted into a form that helps your body naturally.

Lastly, be sure to observe your sleep patterns. By overcoming sleep issues early, you can avoid other related health problems such as headaches, memory lapses, weight gain, and even heart dysfunction.

Yours for the truth,

Bob Livingston