The Health Benefits of Sleep
I had no idea about the health benefits of sleep until I wasn’t able to lose weight. After I became plant-based I dropped a ton of weight but then it came to a screeching halt. I mean with the way I worked out and ate you would think I would look like a fitness mogul. I should have had the body of an active yogi, because well I am. But my body was not showing the results of what I was doing in my waking life. Actually I was awake too much. For example on a typical day I would take a hot yoga class or go to the gym and work out for an hour. I would drink my green juices, have my vegan protein shakes, get in all my good healthy fats, protein, iron, calcium, etc. I was on my game for sure. But I couldn’t lose weight for the life of me and I was super frustrated. I remember thinking what am I doing wrong I should be however many pounds by now. Then I thought it was all mental, I was holding onto the idea of having to look a certain way and I needed to let that go. But when I sat back and looked at my routine it was missing something. SLEEP!
My cortisol levels were through the roof. And you probably already know this about me but I’m a bit neurotic which means I’m a worrier. I think, over analyze, feel anxious, nervous, etc. All of which I do my best to keep under control. However with my lack of sleep it was just amping up all these neurological issues. I would create mountains out of molehills, I would be antsy, fatigued where I thought something was for sure messing with my thyroid. But what I was doing was staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning. I would work round the clock on my website, edit photos, and create content. I’ve always considered myself a night owl and I didn’t see any fault in that. I got away with it when I was in my 20′ s but in your 30’s your body lets you know somethings up and shits gotta change.
When we were born, nap time was essential. Sleep helps babies grow right. Then at some point it’s abruptly ripped out of our lives, taken from us with no warning, just like that (that’s a whole other blog post because I need a word with whoever decided on that). It leaves me to ask the question: But why!? (screaming emoji face)
HOW LACK OF SLEEP EFFECTS THE BODY
We now live in a world that has us constantly plugged in to the outside world 24/7. Back in the day when you got home from work or school you knew that was it for the day, nothing comes home with you. How nice would it be to go back to the good ole days, have dinner at 6, have the kids in bed no later than 8, and adults up to 10 maybe 11 the latest. Sounds so ideal right? Who wouldn’t want to eat by 6 and have everything done by 8? It’s just not like that anymore.
If you take a nap or go to sleep early you are judged as lazy. Because sleeping in our world is considered laziness. Why sleep when you can be getting other things done and you can be productive. But how productive can you truly be if you’re sleep deprived? It’s like listening to a drunk person say they’re ok to drive. You know they’re not ok, other people around them know they’re not ok but yet they insist they are perfectly fine to drive. Obviously you wouldn’t let them. Sleeping is not expendable. At least it shouldn’t be anyway.
(photo courtesy of slideshare.net)
Sleep is a basic human function. It’s extremely important. Inadequate sleep impacts your cardiovascular system, stress levels rise, sluggish metabolism that leads to weight gain, foggy memory, inflammation, depression, anxiety, and an overall suppressed immune system. If you’re not sleeping enough, you can’t work efficiently, you become irritable, moody, grouchy.
Lack of sleep results in higher levels of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands that helps the body prepare to fight or flight by promoting the release of glucose and lipids in the blood for energy metabolism. It breaks down fat for energy. But when you don’t sleep enough, and this level of hormone rises, it begins to suppress the immune system by decreasing the white blood cells, it heightens the cholesterol in the blood stream adding to plaque and buildup in the arteries. It then leads to increased levels of insulin which is what makes you hungry, craving the sugary, fatty foods that aren’t good for you. Ever wonder why at night you’re famished? Or ever wonder why you wake up in the middle of the night hungry? Well this is why. You’re too stressed because you’re not sleeping enough and it will show up through your physical body one way or another. Whether it be weight gain, chronic migraines, or some other ailment.
Insomnia is defined as poor-quality sleep, abnormal wakefulness, or inability to sleep. Since 90% of our population is stressed, insomnia along with muscle tension and headaches are all symptoms of lack of rest. Stress on the mind affects the body and causes literal physical stress.
We have these human clocks. Our humans clocks know when we are to be awake and know when we are to be asleep. If you alter this clock you cause quite a bit of chaos affecting your body’s homeostasis.
Here’s an example: You have a hair appointment at 12 you show up on time but your stylist is still with a previous client. 15 minutes in and you’re still waiting, you’re annoyed because you have your day planned and this is throwing you off, backing you up and will make you run late the rest of the day. The person before you showed up a half hour late to her appointment. Because of that she threw off not only her day, the stylist’s day, your day, and every other appointment for that day. This is what happens to the body when we don’t sleep and try to function on empty. We throw off all our other systems. Our bodies need for us to sleep so it can heal itself. Depriving yourself of sleep is a disservice as that is when your physical body gets to rejuvenate itself. It gets to heal.
SO WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF SLEEP?
For starters your skin will radiate from sleeping. When you’re asleep the skin makes new collagen and the body boosts its blood flow giving you a glowing complexion. You will decrease the fine lines around your forehead, lips, and eyes. Your eyes won’t be puffy or dark and you won’t look like a wet mouse. They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing honey.
And this happens every-single-night. Our bodies are Ah-mazing!
There have been numerous studies done that conclude sleep is essential for optimal health. It improves your persona from moody to happy, helps concentration, attentiveness, and you’ll be more productive and happy to do it. For adults 8 hours of sleep a night will give you all these benefits and for children at least 10 hours is sufficient. I know we sometimes have those nights where we are up later than usual but that one night can put your whole body’s rhythm off for two weeks! And most people think that if they sleep longer or for more hours the next day they’re all caught up, but that’s not how it works. You have to make a conscious decision to make sleeping a priority.
Ways to improve the quality of your sleep and tips on how to get in bed earlier and claim your 8 hours, because you deserve it. Actually you depend on it.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet during the day.
- Exercise your brain and exercise your body.
- Drink plenty of water making sure to stay hydrated.
- Don’t drink or eat anything with caffeine at least 2 hours before bed time. Caffeine is a pick me upper and will get your nervous system going. By removing this you’re allowing your body to get ready for its down time.
- Cut down the use of screen time on anything, tablets, smartphones, computers, TV, etc. The light from these devices keeps the brain activated and can delay falling asleep.
- Try reading, taking a bath, meditating or praying to calm your nerves.
- Diffuse the room with essential oils like lavender or lemon. If you don’t have a diffuser you can put the oil on a cotton ball and put in next to your bed or in a vent in your bedroom. You can also rub it in your hands and breath it in, taking deep breaths to get your body to relax and ready for bed.
- You can drink herbal calming teas or try supplements like melatonin and valerian root to assist you in getting a good nights rest.
When you implement these steps you’ll literally glow. You’ll be less stressed, better equipped and confident on the home and work front, no longer feel utterly exhausted, you won’t feel anxious or depressed as your moods will improve drastically. It’s time to embrace your humor again so you’ll be waking up on the right side of the bed regularly…bright eyed and bushy tailed.