Setting goals to lose weight, eat healthier and drink more water are all great things to set out to do. But there is one that you are forgetting: sleep. Sleep plays a huge role in our health and wellbeing and often is not a huge area of focus when we think about being healthy.
As we head into Summer and you reflect on how things are going with your health and wellness goals, maybe you should think about adding sleep to the list.
- It makes you smarter – If you’ve ever tried to concentrate at work when you are really tired, or work on a project to meet a deadline late into the night, you know firsthand that sleep has a huge impact on brain function. Our brain requires rest, just like the other parts of our body, in order to maintain optimal functioning, including proper firing of signals, the ability to focus and the ability to make decisions and act on impulses. Without rest, reaction times may be slow, concentration is disrupted and we have less stamina to deal with problems or challenges.
- It helps your muscles recover – If you have ever gone to the gym and then woken up really sore the next day, you know that things happen overnight! The soreness may arrive, yes, but a lot of what is happening overnight is also muscle repair. While your muscles aren’t being used, your body begins repairing the small tears in your muscles, helping to rebuild what has been broken down, as well as build new muscle cells. It does this with the help of protein consumed in the diet and requires both this and sleepy time to bring your muscles back to normal.
- It reduces stress levels to help with weight loss – Cortisol is the main hormone released as part of the stress response cycle. It’s released the same regardless of whether your body is under physical stress, like lots of exercise, or emotional and psychological stress, like a stressful job or relationship. Sleep is the time when our body brings the stress cycle back to base line and reduces the cortisol release. Without sleep, we begin releasing too much cortisol, which can trigger our body to store fat and hinder weight loss plans.
- It helps regulate your hormones – You can think of sleep as a big reset button. When you go to sleep, your body analyzes all of your systems – from digestion to endocrine to immune to nervous – and assesses how best to bring them back to base line. This daily reset is important to reduce the cumulative affects on of day-to-day life on our body, such as continuous stress, or continuous negative people who bring down our mood. Without adequate sleeping time, you wake up the next day, irritable and cranky, or sick and stressed, because your body hasn’t been able to reset.
- It boosts immunity – There’s validity behind how when you felt sick, your mom always used to say, “you just need a good night’s sleep, and then you’ll feel better in the morning.” Our immune system, responsible for fighting off illness and removing harmful viruses and bacteria in our body, is composed of hundreds of different cells, all responsible for different tasks. Overnight, our body is able to replace these cells and put them to work doing tasks of cleaning up and cleaning out. These happen best when our body is in rest mode!