I get the most that I can. I am a huge advocate. I put it above all other health activities in my life (including workouts). I count it as one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle (and so do many experts). What am I talking about?
Why is sleep so important?
Think about the days you have been sleep deprived: did you make a too-quick decision you regretted? Weren't at your top performance at work? Felt hungry all day? Felt out of sorts? Felt heart palpitations? Were not as alert commuting to and from work or had a terrible workout? That's because sleep directly affects our mental, physical and emotional health.
Studies show that lack of sleep alters activity in some parts of the brain; affecting your ability to make decisions, solve problems, control your emotions, behavior and even the message to stop eating when full.
Remember the hormones leptin and ghrelin we talked about earlier in the week being the 'satiation' (leptin) and hunger (ghrelin) hormones? When sleep deprived, leptin goes down and ghrelin goes up. Thus making us more apt to overeat and gain extra weight.
But it's not just weight that is affected, it's also our entire immune systems. Prolonged or chronic sleep deprivation is shown to lower the body's ability to fight infections.
I stress rest to repair and build muscle for anyone who is active - and this includes sleep! (Not to mention - if you AREN'T getting enough sleep, you lack the energy and motivation TO workout). Without sleep - our overall bodily functions do NOT WORK properly.
Here are 5 signs you are not getting enough sleep:
You are hungry all the time
Remember sleep deprivation leads to increased ghrelin and decreased leptin. Lack of sleep also affects insulin and can result in a higher blood sugar level.
You are moody
sleep loss can negatively affect our mood and outlook)
You aren't 'in the mood'
Sleep affects our hormones (and that includes our sex hormones responsible for healthy libido)
You aren't performing at work
Sleep helps you pay attention, be more present, alert and aware. Being in a constant state of deprivation reverses the above: making you less present, less alert, not aware and can hurt your performance
You feel sluggish in your workouts
Sleep deprivation impairs physical function and has been shown to make people slower when performing physical activities. No one wants to workout at only 1/2 capacity (why waste a perfectly good hour of the day?)
How Much Sleep do we Need? According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep. You may fall anywhere within that continuum but getting less than 7 hours consistently is recipe for disaster.
What to do about it:
Get. More. Sleep.
Easier said than done right? But here are some of the best tips I have learned for getting a good nights rest:
This works for me personally - and research shows that a dark room sends messages to your brain that it is time for bed.
Make a task list with action items for tomorrow at least 1-2 hours before bed:
If you are a type A like me and tomorrow's to-do list runs through your head while attempting to fall asleep, just 'brain dump' everything in to a task list or calendar for tomorrow before bed. Works like a charm!
Plan for sleep just like you would any daily appointment
Know what time you need to be in bed in order to get your 7-9 hours and STICK TO IT! Consistency and accountability are key.
Take a magnesium supplement
Magnesium decreases the stress hormone 'cortisol', helps muscles relax and gives you a calming feeling.
Read a REAL book before bed
Remember the back-light affects above? Try reading a good old fashioned paper-paged book. Reading can help calm, help take our mind away from stressors of the day or future and help prepare our minds for rest.
Drink warm de-caf herbal tea:
Sipping on warm tea like chamomile that naturally has calming effects can help you fall asleep naturally
At the end of the day (pun intended) - what works for me will not work for everyone. But if you struggle with sleep, odds are your health is suffering. Try the above tips for a good nights rest and aim to get between 7-9 hours a night. Keep a journal or log of your sleep habits and improved health signs that come along with it (or likewise, if you aren't sleeping, the impact to your health).