When it comes to wellness, good nutrition and regular exercise tend to be the rock stars. It’s no wonder with benefits like increased energy, better fitting clothes, bolstered self-esteem and so much more becoming apparent within a relatively short period of time. But did you know that getting enough sleep is just as important if you want a truly healthier, happier life?
Until recently, it felt like sleep was the red-headed stepchild of wellness – a necessary practice but one that often got overlooked in our 24/7 super-charged lives. I often had insomnia from my teenage years throughout my thirties, rarely grabbing more than five or six hours of shut-eye a night during the week. Sadly enough, I thought this as a good thing, giving me extra time to read, be social or work when others were still ensconced in their beds. That changed when I hit my forties and suddenly my body started craving more sleep. At first I was annoyed. Until I realized that my mood and concentration levels tended to be better when I caught seven hours of slumber. Started doing research and found some really compelling reasons for getting enough sleep for optimum wellness:
1) Sleeping more can help you eat less. According to this 2012 Time Magazine story, sleep deprivation can lead to overeating. In fact, a report presented by the American Heart Association’s annual Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism conference found that study participants who were sleep deprived ate more than 500 additional calories daily. It doesn’t take a math whiz to realize that amount of calories can quickly add up into unwelcome extra pounds.
“From a physiologic perspective, we know that sleep is a very important time for the release of many physiologic hormones,” says Virend Somers in the article, lead author of the study and a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. “It’s a time when the body repairs itself, the brain consolidates memories, and growth hormone is released. All of these important functions are impacted by less sleep time.” And that includes levels of hormones involved in appetite. Regardless of why sleep loss contributes to weight gain, Somers says in the article it’s important for people to start appreciating that the two are intertwined.
2) Sleep makes you more creative. Ever heard that when faced with an issue or question, sometimes it is best to sleep on it? In this intriguing article from BBC, researchers found that sleep helps make people more creative by building remote associations. Making the links between pieces of information that our awake minds see as separate seems to be easiest when we’re catching some shut-eye. I’m a big believer of this practice. When I’m stuck on my writing or branding work, I will sometimes ask myself to think about the issue or challenge right before dosing off and usually wake up with great insights.
3) Lack of sleep can leave lasting damage. Feeling sluggish and looking tired aren’t the only negative physical side effects of substandard levels of sleep. In this recent article, researchers found that inconsistent sleep patterns can hurt your brain. The problem is the potential loss of neurons that impact alertness and cognitive function. Think you can catch up on sleep deprivation on the weekends and this will all remedy itself? Actually, researchers say not so much. Getting enough sleep most nights is the key to better health and wellness.
I hope this information doesn’t keep you up at night and instead, puts you to sleep (never thought I’d say those words about anything I’ve written). What are your sleep habits like? Is catching enough slumber part of your wellness strategy or a goal you are working towards in the future?