Want a healthier, happier life? Then sleep on it!

Sweet dreamsWhen 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?

Comments

  1. As a sleep deprived new mom, I can attest — SLEEP IS KING!!! It is shocking how much lack of sleep can affect your health and your mood. I think most people don’t realize because they’re just running a slight sleep deficit and they just get used to feeling crummy.
    Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout recently posted…Welcome, Danny Zuko! Let’s scrapbook and eat homemade pizza. #askawayfridayMy Profile

    • Shira Miller says:

      I’ve only fully appreciated it for a short-while now, but couldn’t agree with you more!

  2. Sleep …you don’t realize how important it is until you can’t sleep well. As with food it’s not just about quantity but quality. I may get 8 hours but if I wake up once or twice I might as well have slept only a few. Sluggish and cranky.
    Pamela Hernandez (@ThriveFit) recently posted…How to Become a Tea DrinkerMy Profile

    • Shira Miller says:

      Good point, Pamela. I anticipate waking up at least once most nights when my husband get up at 4:30a for a long triathlete training session and my alarm doesn’t go off for another hour. But more interruptions than that definitely impact the quality of my slumber.

  3. And not enough sleep hurts muscle building! That’s enough motivation for me! Thanks for the reminders Shira!
    Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana recently posted…Giveaway! Rubberbanditz Pull-up BandsMy Profile

  4. I sleep so-so depending on hormones & life so I get this. In the worst of hormone times – OMG, the lack of sleep – not good! :)
    Jody – Fit at 56 recently posted…My Biceps TrainingMy Profile

  5. I am toast if I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep, great post! :)
    Jenn Speer recently posted…If You Want to Lose Weight Don’t Count on RunningMy Profile

  6. Anything redheaded has to be good for you!
    Kymberly (@KymberlyFunFit) recently posted…Fitness Products & Trends That Caught Our Eye for 2014My Profile

  7. Great post Shira!! I just started a night job and don’t get home til about 1 am and my five year old is up by 7 a the latest, this has left me with a definite lack of sleep and I definitely feel it. We underestimate how much we need our sleep!
    Toni recently posted…2014 #NYCHalf Marathon RecapMy Profile