On Why Sleep Is So Important

I feel like it's so easy to get caught up in your life and put sleep on the back burner. In fact, I'm a huge sleep-skipper. Many times, I get home from coaching after 8pm and I immediately shuffle into the kitchen in search of something to shove into my mouth before I go to bed - all for a 4:30am alarm the next morning. In the best of cases, I'll be in bed by 9:30, which leaves me only a maximum of seven hours of sleep. And that's assuming I immediately fall asleep. There are many times at night that I find myself scrolling through Instagram and suddenly it's past 10pm. 

None of this is benefitting me. In fact, there's probably nothing that I absolutely need to be checking on my phone after 9pm (I set it to silent for a reason and my clients know this!), so why do I do it? I'll probably find that answer when we discover what happened to the Lost City of Atlantis, but I digress. Let's talk about some of the reasons that sleep is so important. 

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Your health depends on it 

That might sound a bit overdramatic, but it's true! You might be thinking, "But I eat healthy and I work out!" These are all great on their own, but a lack of sleep is a huge contributing factor to heart disease and even stroke. And the list goes on from here - lack of sleep greatly affects your metabolism and hormone regulation. Lack of sleep increases your chances of developing Type II diabetes from the reduction of insulin sensitivity. Which truly leads me to the next topic...

Lack of sleep can make you gain weight 

Again, slightly dramatic, but not as much as you would think. It's well-known that sleep can affect hormone levels, one of the primary ones being your hunger hormones: ghrelin and leptin. Have you ever woken up from a terrible night of sleep and been ravenous? And that hunger continued all day, even when you ate? Or, when you find yourself extra tired, nothing healthy sounds good, but a burger sounds amazing? You can thank these little hormones. 

Ghrelin is the hormone in your stomach that signals that you're hungry. It's high before you eat and lowers after. Think stomaching growling! Growling, ghrelin... I mean, you get it! 

Leptin comes from your fat cells. It's the hormone responsible for hunger suppression and signaling when the body is full. 

When you're tired, the brain makes too much ghrelin and not enough leptin, making you think you're hungry, no matter what you do! This leads to the vicious cycle that people find themselves trapped in. They gain weight because they aren't sleeping well, but are too tired to workout, and ultimately, find themselves at a body weight that they are uncomfortable with. It's too easy of a trap to fall into, but unfortunately, all too common. 

Sleep affects your performance 

And this doesn't just pertain to the feeling of "I don't want to workout today." When you're not getting adequate sleep, your performance suffers. This really relates to more than just a sports-related performance as well. When you don't get enough sleep, your cognitive function is impaired. Concentrating, cognition, performance, all of the above! That foggy feeling impairs your memory and your critical decision making skills, causing a much higher frequency of errors. 

But for those sports-minded individuals, the greatest hinderance to performance comes in the lack of recovery. During sleep, our body is able to respond to inflammation and repair itself. Many times, if a client asked me which was better - being sleep-deprived or getting in a workout - I would tell them that is always more important to take the day to get adequate rest. Now, this is easier said than done and I know that I'm guilty of pushing myself too hard. But, a workout that you shuffle through because you're in no position to push yourself is not a workout at all. (Now, if it's a skipped workout because your brain is telling you it doesn't want to do it... that's a different story!) The same is true for the immune system. Have you ever noticed that you get sick more frequently when you don't sleep well? Studies have shown that limited sleep plays a huge role in how well your immune system functions. 

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Lack of sleep makes you crabby

This might seem like a "duh" statement, because, truly, who has a good day after a poor night of sleep? But it might surprise you that some of that is not your fault. (Unless you're just a naturally grumpy person anyway.) In case, I haven't said this enough already, sleep plays a huge role in hormone function. This could lead to bigger issues if the sleep is consistently lacking, such as depression! 

Ultimately, what is considered an "adequate" amount of sleep is going to vary among different individuals. But, you can take your sleep into your own hands and create good sleep hygiene habits. Sometimes, it's simply about creating a nightly routine, finding products that work for you, and making sleep a priority! I recently purchased a weighted blanket (Read more: We Tried It: Weighted Blankets) and I feel like it has made all the difference. I'm also a huge fan of essential oils and frequently run a diffuser in my bedroom at night. Keep to a schedule at night and be sure to shut off distractions - your phone! - and give yourself time to wind down at night.

If you're feeling like you're stuck in a rut, try switching up your sleep and see how you feel! 

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