Getting sufficient sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health! Sleep is an important part of your self-care routine. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the pillars of a balanced lifestyle that is most likely to be neglected.
The recommended amount of shut eye is 7-9 hours per night. Many of us aren’t getting enough snooze time and this is having a dramatic impact in our lives. Poor sleep habits have devastating effects on your body. Even the healthiest of athletes can suffer due to sleep imbalance.
Here are a few reasons why getting enough sleep is crucial for your health and wellbeing, and why diet alone can’t undo the effects of not sleeping well.
Sleep Quality vs. Sleep Quantity
We’re always being told how many hours we should be sleeping each night, but is it really enough?
Sleep quality refers to how well we sleep and is completely different than how long we sleep. It’s easy to tell how long you sleep, but the quality of your sleep is much harder to determine.
Poor sleep quality means that you’re not sleeping in line with your circadian rhythm or going through all of the sleep phases (particularly with REM sleep).
Some signs that your sleep quality isn’t the best include:
• Waking up more than once during the night
• Not waking up naturally (or with the sun) and hitting snooze often
Sleep and Health
What exactly does your body experience when you don’t get enough sleep? All your systems are affected. Here are some of the more serious effects that poor sleep patterns can have on your health:
• Lower immunity. Do you get every cough and cold going around? Your sleep habits may be to blame! Researchers have been able to prove sleeping for less than 7 hours per night can lower immunity. You can be almost 3 times more likely to be infected by the common cold due to poor sleep.
• Higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies have looked at the link between lack of sleep and developing heart disease and stroke and it’s a scary connection. Getting less than 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night means a higher chance of developing Coronary Heart Disease or having a stroke.
• Higher risk of diabetes. A sleep debt can pave the way for developing Type 2 diabetes. Just a week of not sleeping well reduced insulin sensitivity and raised concerns about whether consistently sleeping badly might open the door to developing health issues linked to insulin resistance.
• Increased inflammation. Inflammation is now linked to lots of different health problems and can be increased by sleep loss.
Sleep and Weight Gain
If you don’t sleep well, maintaining a healthy weight may be harder. The main problem? It disturbs your metabolism and can ruin your good intentions to eat well.
A lack of sleep has a devastating effect on hormones, especially those that are linked to appetite such as leptin and ghrelin. Leptin helps keep your appetite in check while ghrelin does the complete opposite.
Ideally, you want to have more leptin and less ghrelin, but not sleeping enough creates imbalance. This means you’re a lot more likely to overeat, even when you’re full. And you’ll find it harder to shift stubborn fat on your stomach, as sleep deprivation encourages fat to build up in this area.
Improving Your Sleep Quality
Here are a few things you can do to get better quality sleep:
• Invest in room darkening curtains or blinds to make your room as dark as possible to support your circadian rhythm.
• Set a bedtime routine that involves going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at a specific time each morning.
• Turn off electronics at least 1 hour before bed to reduce the amount of ‘blue light’ you’re exposed to before bedtime. Your body finds it harder to produce enough melatonin to help you sleep well when it is exposed to “blue light” at night.
Sleep should be a key part of your wellness routine. Improve your overall health by applying these suggestions to your everyday life along with being more aware of the connection between sleep and weight gain.
How well do you sleep? Comment below. I’d love to learn more about ways you have improved your health by optimizing your night time routine.
To your health,