All the posts and emails that I write are about trying to maintain a healthy, well functioning body, why it’s important to look after your body, and what to do when you’re sick of putting up with back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, etc, etc… So you can do all the things you love…
When it comes to your health, there is one, very simple thing that you can do that will lead to the mythical instant results – and that is get more sleep.
In fact, sleep is important for ALL areas of health, and I’d argue it’s the most important thing you do each day for your recovery from whatever stresses life throws at you. There are, in my opinion, there are 2 things you need to get right to recover well from anything, be it injury, exercise or life in general;
- Sleep well
- Eat well
Anything else you read about regards to recovery has marginal benefits and even these will be for nothing if you don’t get enough sleep or eat well.
Of the two I would suggest that sleep is the most important as can be seen when you browse the internet and read magazine and newspaper articles, you’ll see that sleep is the one thing that all the health gurus agree on.
Whilst they will almost certainly disagree on what you should or shouldn’t eat they will all agree that getting sufficient, good quality sleep is very important.
I’m yet to see a nutritionist or health expert suggesting that the way to achieve our best health is through not getting a solid sleep or finding ways to sleep less… but the shocking truth is that is exactly what many of us do too often(including me *ahem* though my 3 year old is partly to blame for that as he’s going through a phase of getting up in the middle of the night).
On the flip side, if you want to gain weight, shorten your life, age quicker, feel more stressed and increase your likelihood of injury, you can experience all of that (and more) by not sleeping enough!
And I think you’d agree, that doesn’t sound like something anyone would want.
So, let’s talk about what happens when you don’t get enough sleep…
First off, poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain. There’s been plenty of studies done on it. And people who don’t get enough hours of sleep each night have been found to weigh significantly more than those who do get adequate sleep.
Why is this? Because we sleep to repair our bodies and balance our hormones. So when we don’t get enough of it, our bodies are put under stress, causing them to go into ‘fight or flight mode’, clinging onto every bit of body fat we have and making our hormones go out of balance, which is why we’re more likely to gain weight (or struggle to lose it), because our body is out of whack!
Sleep also plays a huge role on our physical health. It’s involved in healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels.
Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even strokes.
Like I said above, sleep plays a big part in maintaining a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your hunger levels go up! And your ‘feeling full’ levels go down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.
So if you find yourself always feeling hungry and never satisfied, ask yourself if you get enough sleep.
Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin (the hormone that controls your blood sugar levels). If you don’t get enough of it, you could have a higher than normal blood sugar level, making you feel low in energy, and craving sugary things.
Do you ever get mood swings? You can blame a lack of sleep for those moments too.
Sleep loss can make you feel irritable, impatient, unable to concentrate and feel snappy when you don’t mean to be. And none of us like to be around that person when mood swings strike.
We spend about one third of our life sleeping, so why is it we struggle to make it a priority?…
I know, you probably know you should get more of it (me included), and the truth is when we’re in a habit of not making sleep a top priority, it’s difficult to fix it without knowing where to begin.
Let me explain, a lot of us think getting tucked into bed early with the TV on is getting a good night’s sleep. It isn’t.
Though you might be ‘winding down early’ (or so you think), sleeping with the TV on after drinking a cup of tea and being awakened by an alarm clock, is not quality sleep.
On a personal level I know that if I don’t get enough quality sleep I can NOT concentrate and don’t feel motivated to get up and exercise like I know I should.
So getting your environment right is key to setting yourself up for success.
Here’s a few things I’ve found
that help me the most personally…
Sleeping in complete darkness – covering anything that has a light on it, and investing in a blackout blind.
Sleeping on a good quality mattress.
Sleeping as much as my body needs – usually about 8 hours, and that doesn’t mean getting more sleep by hitting snooze when my alarm clock goes off if I know I’ve achieved 8.
Eating healthy the majority of the time and daily exercise, even if that just means a brisk walk outside in the fresh air. The benefits of walking in general are highly under rated.
Regular massage sessions from the Therapists at PST – which have really helped me to feel less tense, and able to fall asleep, quicker!
Make time to meditate – you don’t need to do anything special or go to a retreat to learn how to do this. A simple way to do it is to get yourself comfortable and simply count 100 breaths.
This will likely take about 10-15 minutes and should leave you feeling calm and refreshed. When you are doing it make sure that beyond counting the breaths that you focus on getting a nice long exhale.The benefits of this are that you get the benefits of better breathing alongside those of meditation.
So I implore you, please make time to get enough sleep. It’s tremendously important for your health and it doesn’t cost a thing!
I understand how tough it can be, especially if you have kids or grandchildren when those precious hours in the night are sometimes the only ones you get to have a bit of ‘you time’ to unwind. It lights out by 10 for me as my 3 year old will be up at 6. But in the long run, the extra hours of sleep will equal a more happier, patient you, feeling more alert all day long, leaving you with more energy to do the things you enjoy.
So, are you getting enough sleep?
Have a think about it, and start making the change today to kickstart your new routine and give your health a boost.
The video below is an excellent talk by Russell Foster on the subject of sleep. If you wan to learn a bit more about it simply type TED and SLEEP into YouTube