Without enough good quality sleep, we are left feeling run-down, sluggish, irritable and out of alignment. If you want to feel your absolute best and be the most epic version of yourself possible, then it’s time to start prioritising sleep and turning good quality sleep into one of your non-negotiables.
It took me years to truly understand the importance of sleep – in fact, looking back now, I really am shocked at how I neglected my body by not making sleep a priority. I really struggled getting to sleep and staying asleep that before long, it actually became a burden and I stopped trying all together. It was only when I went on my journey towards healing my gut and my hormones that I really grasped how important sleep is for not only your physical health, but your mental health as well.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we live in a society where being busy is almost the definition of being worthy and successful. How sad is that? Rather than ranking our worthiness based on our levels of self-care or our success on our happiness, we rank them based on how much we get done in the shortest amount of time possible. Being tired and not getting enough sleep is almost worn as a badge of honour, but let me tell you, it is a badge of dishonour because you are not prioritising the most precious thing in your life – your body. I’ve heard it so many times: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” or “I just don’t have enough time to sleep for 8 hours” or “…. prevents me from getting enough sleep”. We’ve strayed so far from establishing sleep patterns that make us thrive, that we now see it as life – sluggish, tired, unmotivated life. Well, it’s time to change that and get your sleep your number one health priority – especially if you have others that are dependent on you. If you feel run-down, drained, are struggling to focus and have a low mood, then it’s time to look into your sleep patterns.
During periods of sleep, a lot goes on inside of our bodies to help them function at their best and thrive. It’s a time when our internal organs rest and have time to recover after working hard during the day – I mean, just think about our poor livers and how much detoxifying they have to do over the course of the day let alone our hearts and lungs having to work extra hard during periods of stress or physical activity.
It’s a time for tissue repair, muscle growth and protein synthesis. Sleep helps with memory consolidation and the formation & storage of new memories – which is essential for learning and processing new information (key for our survival). On top of that, hormones that help to regulate appetite control, stress, growth, metabolism and other bodily functions are released. You can see how a lack of sleep can therefore lead to poor food choices, increased stress and a decreased metabolism.
Getting enough, good quality sleep can really be a game changer for our health and wellbeing – in short, it’s essential for optimum health and for helping our bodies to thrive both inside and outside. Some of the benefits are:
So, we know all the benefits of getting those Z’s in, but what about if we deprive our bodies of that rest and repair time?
During sleep, hormones that regulate appetite control and stress are released into our bodies. When we don’t get enough sleep, this may lead to poor food choices over the course of the following day. For example, you might eat a surplus of calories as a result of feeling hungry more often, or because you’re reaching for those sugary foods to get you through ‘slumps’ during the day. Due to increased tiredness, you might not be as clear headed as you might be if you achieved the recommended amount of sleep and therefore make food choices that you probably don’t usually make.
Stress responses also lead to poor food choices. If we don’t get enough sleep then our stress levels are heightened and that can lead to cravings and reaching for those sugary foods and drinks. In both cases, if this happens every now and again, you might not notice a massive difference in your weight. However, if this happens regularly, then it could lead to unwanted weight gain.
Without sleep, you are more susceptible to stress and your immune system doesn’t function as optimally as it should. Stress has been linked with high blood pressure, heart disease, fatigue and burnout. If you’re immune system isn’t functioning at its best, then you’re also more likely to catch colds and flu viruses.
During sleep, insulin is released to help control blood sugar levels. Without this being released throughout the night there is an increase in inflammatory proteins within the blood as well as an increase in blood sugar levels. In short, chronic short sleep duration has been associated with hypertension, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Due to the mental and physical exhaustion of not getting enough sleep, you might be at an increased risk of having an accident or injuring yourself. Your brain isn’t as alert as it should be and therefore you might be a bit more ‘clumsy’ than usual.
As sleep is a time for memory consolidation, short sleep cycles can hinder mental performance and impair your ability to process new information. This might affect areas of your life such as your work and career or even juggling all those plates and to-do lists during the day. When you get enough sleep, your mind is sharper, you’re more focused and have a higher level of cognitive function. So if you want to be your most productive self then get that extra hour in bed rather than staying up late to finish a project.
As well as this, your overall mood is impacted. It can increase anxiety and cause you to have trouble keeping your emotions in check. For example, have you ever felt you snapped quicker when you didn’t get enough sleep the night before? You might experience a shorter temper, increased feelings of irritability, anxiety, sadness and even anger.
As you can see, getting a good night’s sleep is imperative for both your mental and physical health. The next few tips will help you cultivate better quality sleep in your life so that your body can thrive!
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