Sleep. It makes you feel better and without it, the day seems like a struggle to get through. The importance of sleep goes so much deeper than just preventing dark circles under your eyes. Getting a good night’s rest plays a huge role in your overall health and weight. Today we are going to discuss some key benefits of sleep and steps you can take to rest more blissfully every night.
Health Benefits of Sleep
Reduce Inflammation. Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Research studies have shown that those that get 6 or less hours of sleep a night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins.
Improve performance. If you are looking to become more fit, there may be a simple solution: get better sleep. One particular study showed that athletes that got 8-10 hours of sleep a night for 8 weeks improved their sprint times, had more stamina, and experienced less daytime fatigue.
Lose weight. A study at the University of Chicago found that participants who were well rested lost substantially more body fat when compared to those that were sleep deprived. Participants also indicated feeling more hungry throughout the day if they did not sleep well the night before.
Lower stress. Sleep and stress levels go hand in hand. Both affect our cardiovascular health. The more sleep you get, the lower your stress levels will be and therefore the lower your blood pressure will be. Sleep also has been linked to cholesterol levels which in turn plays a role in heart disease.
Avoid depression. Getting better sleep means more than just preventing irritability. A lack of sleep has been linked to an increase risk of depression. The more sleep you get, the more emotionally stable you can become.
How to Get Better Sleep
1. Find Your Body’s Rhythm
- Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday. This helps your body stick to a consistent sleep-wake cycle and improve your quality of sleep.
- Practice smart napping. If you are someone that has a hard time falling asleep a night, try eliminating naps all together. If you feel you absolutely have to take one, limit your naps to 15-20 minutes
2. Control Light Exposure
- Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning. This will help you wake-up and start to feel more alert
- Spend more time outside. Let as much natural sun light into your home/office.
- If necessary, use a light therapy box. These stimulate sunshine and can be very useful especially during winter months.
- At night. Avoid bright screens within 2 hours of your bedtime and say no to falling asleep with the TV on. Ensure your room is as dark as possible when it is time to go to sleep.
3. Get Regular Exercise
- Time them right. Exercise speeds up your metabolism, elevates body temperature, and releases activating hormones such as Cortisol. If you exercise at night, this can hinder your quality of sleep. Try finishing up your exercise routine at least 3 hours before it is time to sleep.
4. Wind down
- Create a ritual. Find something that helps you wind down and quite your mind at night. Whether it be reading a book, taking a warm bath, listening to soft music, light stretching, or practicing mediation and breathing techniques. Find something that works for you that will help relax before bedtime.
Use this week’s mini challenge as motivation to practice better sleep and to work on getting more of it. It is important to note that if you find yourself overly tired on the weekends, this could be a clear sign that you not getting enough sleep during the week. In order for the true benefits of sleep to be put into affect you have to find a balance throughout the entire week.