Sleep makes us feel better.
Whether it is a good nights’ sleep or a nap throughout the day, sleeping improves our mood and refreshes our energy. Getting enough sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and there are a host of benefits to our hearts, minds, weight, and more.
Below are five health benefits of getting adequate sleep and why we should strive to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Sharpens our brain function. During the day we are constantly overstimulated with thoughts and information that we don’t have time to properly store new memories. Sleep lets our brains catch up on that process, so we are better able to receive and retrieve information.
- Boosts our mood. Along with not properly storing information during the day, we also do not properly process our emotions. Being overwhelmed and on-the-go during the day doesn’t leave us much room to sit and think about how we are feeling at a given moment. Sleeping gives us the down time to recognize what we are feeling and react appropriately. A good nights’ sleep can help us bounce back from a bad day, improve our outlook on a situation, and leave us better prepared to face the accompanying challenges.
- Healthier heart. When we sleep our blood pressure decreases and this gives our hearts and blood vessels time to rest a bit. The longer we are awake the longer our blood pressure is elevated. Chronic high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, including stroke.
- Increased athletic performance and weight control. Proper sleep sets us up for physical performance. During the time we are sleeping our muscles have the chance to recover and repair. Sleep also heightens our motivation and gives us the energy to perform better. Sleep deprivation messes with our hunger hormones– leptin and ghrelin– which control our appetite. When these are out of balance we have a harder time saying no to unhealthy foods and when we are tired we have a harder time getting up to exercise. These go hand in hand with weight gain.
- Regulates blood sugar. During the deep part of our sleep, our blood glucose level drops. Lack of sleep and not spending enough time in a deep sleep means that we don’t get that drop in blood sugar. This drop in blood sugar is important to reset our hunger hormones and let our bodies fast to clear excess sugars and digest our food from the night before completely. As we all know, consistently elevated blood sugar leads to metabolic diseases, such as Type II Diabetes.
Here are a few tips to help you sleep better at night and ensure you get adequate rest:
- Establish a night-time routine. Wash your face and brush your teeth prior to bed. Allow your body and mind to wind down sending signals that it is getting close to bedtime (i.e. read a book, listen to soothing music). Go to bed at a set time each night and stick to it.
- Keep electronics out of bed. Easier said than done, but the blue light produced from electronic screens suppresses the body’s natural ability to produce melatonin, an important hormone for sleep.
- Set up your sleeping space for optimal rest. Invest in a mattress pad or silk sheets. Turn on a fan or noisemaker to block out any sounds. Make your room as dark as possible. Associate your sleeping space with a sense of tranquility.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. The effects of caffeine can take six to eight hours to wear off, so make sure you aren’t drinking caffeinated beverages that amount of time prior to when you go to sleep.
Sleep is so important, so make sure you take the time to make it a priority. Your body will thank you for it!
Anna Fink is a Nutrition and Flux Coach at CrossFit Icehouse. She is passionate about helping others reach their optimal health through nutritional and lifestyle changes.