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How much “beauty sleep” do you really need?

beauty sleepself logoAre you getting enough pillow time? Research shows that not getting enough sleep can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, weight gain, cancer and even your risk of dying prematurely.

So why are so many health risks tied to adequate sleep? Well, it’s all about what happens during that crucial downtime, according to Amy Hendel, author of The 4 Habits of Healthy Families.

“Your metabolic rate slows down, allowing organs to work less intensively so they have recovery time,” Hendel says. “Thanks to increasing levels of HGH (human growth hormone), your cells have time to replenish, and even regenerate or repair, during those hours of complete rest. And as you move through your sleep phases, free radicals that are considered health-risk instigators are dissolved in your bloodstream.”

Getting enough sleep means a minimum of 7 to 8 hours. Get less than 5 or 6 hours of sleep on a regular basis and your risk of health issues increases dramatically, not to mention you’re unlikely to be looking your best.

Here’s what’s happening in your body during dreamtime, says Hendel:

1. Your skin benefits from the restorative nature of sleep. Since your top layer of skin has been shedding dead skin cells all day, sleep time is repair time.

2. Production of melatonin is reduced when you get enough sleep. When you have elevated levels of this hormone, your risk of developing certain cancers is higher.

3. Sleep helps keep stress hormones like cortisol at lower levels. Cortisol can drive up risk of hypertension and heart disease.

4. Adequate sleep lowers your risk of having less stable blood sugar levels, so you lower your risk of diabetes.

Keep reading for 3 more ways sleep can help you stay healthy and look your best. Plus, tips to get more sleep!

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