Why Sleep is Just as Important as Healthy Eating & Exercise
Just how important is sleep and why is it becoming such an important topic in the wellness community?
Poor sleep is linked to many health problems such as depression, a weak immune system, obesity, and other weight problems, loss of sex drive, diabetes, and heart problems. It also leads to an inability to focus, poor memory, inability to delay gratification, an increase in errors or accidents, fatigue, and irritability.
What happens in our sleep that keeps us healthy? A part of why sleep is important is that is when tissue repair occurs and growth hormones are released.
Lack of Sleep Can Cause Health Problems
Your body has an internal clock that performs organ maintenance when we are sleep, but if we don’t get it, we break down. It’s very hard to have adequate energy without proper sleep. It’s also much easier to catch a cold or flu if you aren’t protecting your precious sleep.
Sleep helps us be more productive because we think more clearly and have more energy. While not getting enough sleep can lead to many problems, getting enough sleep can lead to better fertility, lower risk of diabetes and heart disease, help you slim down, and boost your immune system.
Many of Our Body Processes Rely On Sleep
While you’re sleeping, your body is repairing itself and this can reduce inflammation greatly. Your body also produces the hormones you need to regulate your metabolism. Many of the hormones produced by stress are removed through our filter organs during our sleep.
Lack of sleep can cause diseases and it’s just as important as a healthy diet and exercise. It’s hard to see the effects of this silent killer because it happens slowly over time. We could have a decline in our health and be unable to pinpoint what the cause is.
According to the American Sleep Association people who sleep just a few hours per night had a higher rate of obesity and had a higher risk of type two diabetes. The blood pressure and heart rate drop significantly during certain stages of our sleep cycle when our body is repairing itself.
Most people don’t realize the true importance of sleep and that they are also at a greater risk of heart attacks if they don’t get enough.
Read this next: Tap Into Your Best Sleep Yet With These Sleep Tracker Apps
How You Can Get Better Sleep
Much of our sleep disruptions can be linked to our lifestyles. Eating too much sugar, alcohol, or caffeine can increase sleep disruption. A poor diet will leave you with a shortage of magnesium which is essential for deep sleep.
Here are some other tips to help improve your sleep:
- Don’t look at lit screens before going to bed.
- Drink relaxing herbal teas such as chamomile, lavender, or kava kava.
Take a magnesium supplement or eat foods high in magnesium like cucumbers, bananas, avocado, and spinach.
- Take a shower before bed.
- Use an essential oil diffuser with calming oils.
- Play calming music to allow your nervous system to relax.
- Leaning forward breathing deeply as you sit in bed to calm your nervous system.
- Make sure you have a comfortable bed.
You can also add some type of exercise to your daily routine but try not to exercise right before bed as it stimulates your nervous system. Your mind can make it hard to fall asleep which is why there are now many apps that offer meditations to help you sleep and apps that can help you optimize your sleep cycles.
How Much Sleep is the Right Amount?
The ideal amount of sleep is 7-9 hours. But getting the right type of sleep is just as important as getting enough sleep. Rapid eye movement (REM) is the deepest level of sleep where your body is able to do the most healing.
You probably don’t often contemplate the question many doctors have already asked. If you’re wondering, is REM sleep important, you need to know that it absolutely is. Most people think each REM cycle is 90 minutes but it varies from person to person.
There are also ways you can make the quality of your sleep better so you don’t need quite as much. For more information on that, check out books by the sleep doctor.
If you’re busy, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you don’t need sleep. Your body can work for you if you accept that it needs daily repair. Your brain can help you do great things if you treat yourself well.
A 2010 study on sleep deprivation also said lack of sleep can shorten your life. If you love to socialize, try to do it during the day and allow your body to sync with the circadian rhythms of the planet. We are designed to get tired when the sun goes down and we are also designed to sleep more in the winter. Our energy shifts seasonally.
So aim to get your 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep.
Why add extra struggles to your life just by choosing not to sleep?
Being Superwoman or Superman doesn’t mean you don’t need sleep, it means you have more energy because your incredible bio-computer is functioning optimally, making you feel like you’re ready to take on the world!
Related Article: Does Oversleeping Make You Tired?
* Editor’s note: This article was previously published June 14th, 2018 and has been updated for relevance and accuracy.