Why Sleep Isn't a Waste of Time.
This last weekend, it was so uncharacteristically warm, our entire household seemed to have trouble sleeping.
It was too warm, our windows were open to try to cool the house down at night (which made it loud and bright), and it seemed like our dogs were barking at every noise they heard!
My sleep had been pretty good recently, so it reminded me just how fortunate I'd been and how important sleep really is.
Sleep could be considered the single most important aspect of our health.
When we don't get enough sleep, it effects us on a physical, emotional, and cognitive level. Conversely, when our health isn't good, or our body's out of balance, our sleep can suffer.
What if I told you that successful athletes and top executives consider good sleep to be a competitive advantage?
While it may seem more efficient to get less sleep, it really isn't in the long run.
Lack of sleep is correlated with an increased risk of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and earlier death.
Without solid sleep, our bodies can't function to their full potential no matter how well we eat and how much we exercise.
What's Happening While We Sleep?
While we sleep the body restores itself. Tissue rebuilds, accumulated toxins are eliminated, and the brain consolidates the day's experiences and turns them into new knowledge.
Growth hormones are produced while we sleep which is important not only while we're developing, but also for muscle and tissue repair in adults.
Accumulated toxins are not only eliminated in our bodies, but a 2013 study done with mice found that the spaces between brain cells were flushed of toxins while the mice slept.
During sleep, not only does your heart rate and breathing slow, but your blood pressure also drops about five to seven points after a good night's sleep.
You also regulate your hormones while you sleep, including hunger hormones.
The release of appetite regulation hormones leptin and ghrelin, are partly dependent upon sleep quality. Glucose tolerance and insulin secretion are also modulated by the sleep/wake cycle. In other words, you're much more likely to reach for the donut in the break room if you're low on sleep. Citation.
Our brains also consolidate our day's experiences and turn them to new knowledge while we sleep. Animal and human studies suggest that how long and how well you sleep can have a profound impact on learning and memory.
Avoid These Sleep Mistakes
Don't drink caffeine after 2pm. Even if you don't have trouble falling asleep initially, your sleep will probably be affected by that afternoon cup of coffee.
Skip the afternoon nap, unless you're in Spain! Even if you got a bad night's sleep the night before, try to skip the afternoon nap. Or if you really must, keep it to 20 minutes or less. Skipping the nap will help you to get your sleep cycle back in balance.
Try not to exercise within three hours of bedtime, unless it's restorative yoga. It's harder for your body to prepare for sleep directly after exercising.
Avoid drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime. If you're going to have a glass of wine to unwind from the day, drink it while you're making dinner instead of later.
Stop drinking fluids two hours before bed, especially if you frequently get up during the night to use the bathroom, stop drinking fluids two hours before bed. Try to load up on water earlier in the day.
Tonight, make sure you get enough sleep. Your body and brain will thank you for it!
What are your struggles with sleep? Share your great sleep strategies below.
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