Interested in dropping body-fat, becoming fit, being healthier than ever? Proper sleep is one component to achieving optimal health that is always overlooked.

Unfortunately, this is the one part of our lives that we should all look forward to and enjoy. We should spend one third of or lives doing it. And, we should value it as integral part of a healthy lifestyle!

Are you receiving 7-9 hours of uninterrupted (for any reason) sleep a night?

Are you getting at least two hours of sleep before midnight?

Do you wake up energized the following day?

If not, you are probably not benefiting from the repair and recuperative powers of a night of proper sleep.

I don’t believe as a society we value sleep as we should. You know that I have spoken in this column before about what is causing the decline in America’s health. I have regularly focused this article on proper nutrition as I believe that convenience foods have lead our nation down the path to poor health. If the modern day diet is Public Enemy #1, our inaccurate view of proper sleep and its unbelievable value is a close second.

Proper sleep, a night of quality sleep of seven to nine hours, will not only help the body rest, but also, recover, repair, and recuperate. There are many systems in the body and they are all interconnected, so if one system does not recover from the stresses of the day, all of the others will be affected. If you are having physical, emotional or hormonal issues, it could be related in some way to your lack of proper sleep. The immune system can be compromised up to sixty percent with just one poor night of sleep. We need to make a conscious effort to improve our sleep patterns or our organs and glands will feel the effects and will succumb to accelerated aging and disease. It is no wonder that sleep deprivation has been linked to vitamin deficiencies, diabetes and hypoglycemia, among other health challenges.

Here are some things to remember when prioritizing sleep in your life. Just as we have moved away from real food, we have moved away from getting up at the crack of dawn and going to bed as the sun sets. Synthetic light, just like modern convenience food, is a new phenomenon and it clearly has an adverse effect on our health. The body has a circadian rhythm that normally follows the cycle of the sun. But man-made light, which has been made to imitate the sun, can throw the body’s natural rhythm off. If you followed a healthy circadian rhythm you would see hormonal patterns develop. This is important, as the balance of hormones in your body is a major indicator of your health.

A perfect example of this would be cortisol, a primary stress hormone that prevents your blood pressure from going too low. Cortisol is supposed to ebb and flow with the sun and our sleep patterns, but as we are constantly bombarded with synthetic light late in the evening, our cortisol levels are elevated as the body cannot separate the sun from synthetic lighting. This simple life change puts tremendous stress on the endocrine system.

There are numerous studies that say the sleep that you receive before midnight is much more valuable than the sleep you receive after. Some studies have found sleep before midnight to be four times more beneficial. Practically speaking you would be much better off going to bed and waking up earlier. To make this possible we must begin to wean ourselves off of synthetic light earlier in the day (computers, televisions, house lighting, etc.). This week take a look at your life and how closely it mimics the rising and setting of the sun. If a large part of your life is taking place after sundown, see if you can prioritize the sleep you receive before midnight and watch it improve your health.