Importance of Sleep

For your body and mind to be at its optimal state, it needs adequate rest periods to repair and re-energize. In my last article I discussed the importance of taking rest days from your workouts. Today, I’m will share the importance of getting adequate shut-eye, as well as some tips to improve the quality of your sleep.
In a perfect world, we’d all get 7-9 hours of deep, restful, uninterrupted sleep each night. We would wake up with the sun feeling energized and ready to take on the day. Of course, the real world isn’t always perfect. While we may not get a good night sleep every night, there are compelling reasons why you should ‘pack it in’ a bit earlier each night and prioritize sleep. Good quality sleep plays an important role in your health. Sleep:

  • Helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. Lack of sleep can interfere with insulin, and lead to higher than normal level of blood sugar.
  • Reduces risk of heart disease, kidney disease and high blood pressure.
  • Helps to maintain a healthy balance between hormones that control appetite. Lack of sleep, however, can increase your appetite. When you’re sleep deprived, the hormone that makes you feel hungry, ghrelin goes up, and the hormone that makes you feel full (leptin) goes down.
  • Puts your body at the best state for repair of body tissues such as muscle and blood vessels.
  • Is important for a well-functioning immune system. Sleep deprivation increases your chances of getting sick.
  • Is important for learning, memory and decision-making.
  • Stabilizes your mood and energy levels.

Some people are naturally good sleepers. Others have to work at it a bit harder. If you are a shift worker, if you frequently travel across different time zones, if you have little ones keeping you up at night, or are in another situation that impedes your sleep, do your best. Here are some solutions to improve the amount and quality of your rest:

  • Go to bed and rise at the same time every day.
  • Maintain a regular eating schedule and avoid eating late at night. If you are truly hungry, do eat, but avoid eating heavy meals before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine in the PM hours (past noon)
  • Fuel your body well!   Eat protein, healthy fats, lots of non-starchy veggies and avoid sugar.
  • Exercise daily! Try to exercise earlier in the day as late night workouts may disrupt your sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom for sleeping and sex only. No TV! No iPads!
  • Sleep in the dark. Keep the lights off, and cover your alarm. No digital lights an hour before bed (iPhone, etc.). Use black out curtains to remove any ambient light.
  • If you have a tough time getting enough sleep and it impacts your day (there are some people who function really well on shorter amounts of sleep) talk to your health care provider for other solutions.

For optimal health and energy levels, and to maintain a healthy body weight, good quality sleep should be a priority. Get into the habit of hitting the pillow a bit earlier, and enjoy the benefits of good quality sleep! If you’re reading this at night, go get into your jammies and go to bed!

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