The Importance of Sleep

The Importance of Sleep

Tya Waterman |

For most of us, getting a good night’s sleep seems like a thing of the past. We constantly live in a state of tiredness. Staying up late and waking up early is the new norm. It is almost like pushing your phone battery to “low power mode” on a daily basis. We are all guilty of it, at least from time to time, aimlessly scrolling through social media or binge watching a show until the late hours of the night. The morning alarm seems to come earlier and earlier each day.

The question is: how damaging is this sleep-deprived lifestyle and what can we do to change it?

Negative effects of sleep deprivation

First, and possibly most importantly for some of us, poor sleep patterns can potentially lead to weight gain. The more tired we are, the less likely we are to be motivated enough to workout. This lack of motivation means that we are more likely to pass on the gym and opt to watch some tv instead.

Lack of sleep will not only affect our motivation but may disrupt our hormones as well. We are more likely to crave those “bad” foods, and eat in excess, because of the hormone imbalance in our body, caused by not getting proper rest. When you do not sleep enough, the body makes more ghrelin and less leptin, which can cause increased cravings and hunger.

Not only is sleep deprivation bad for our waistlines, but it can also reduce activity in the frontal lobe of the brain which is in charge of decision-making and self-control. Let’s put that into context. We are up longer with less motivation to exercise and less willpower to fight cravings. It is a simple recipe for gain weight. In addition, when we are awake longer there is more time available to be spent snacking. Unfortunately, with that time being spent awake and inactive, your resting metabolic rate (RMR) may lower.

Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the amount of calories your body burns when you’re completely at rest. It is affected by age, weight, height, sex, and muscle mass. Sleep deprivation may lower your RMR. Chronic sleep deprivation is also liked to lower insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that moves sugar from the bloodstream into your body’s cells to be used as energy. When cells become insulin resistant, more sugar remains in the bloodstream. The excess insulin makes you hungrier and tells the body to store more calories as fat.

Your body is a machine and it is in survival mode to work regularly, but if it is not getting the sleep it needs, it will not be able to perform properly.

What can a good night’s sleep do for you?

On the other hand, good sleep supports optimal problem-solving skills and memory performance in both children and adults. A good night’s sleep will improve your ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information. Sleep is like charging your battery. In order to maximize your efficiency, you want to be running on a full battery.

How to get the sleep you need

Now that we’ve got you interested in getting more sleep, let’s discuss the ways that we can develop a better routine for optimal rest at night.

Everyone’s individual sleep needs vary. In general, healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best but how can you make sure that you are getting enough?

Let’s start with establishing a routine. Developing a sleep schedule can help to ensure you are getting enough rest each night. Try to get into bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Your body will then get used to this routine and you will fall asleep easier at the same time, night after night.

Another tip to help you sleep better at night is to avoid caffeine late in the afternoon. This may seem unreasonable to some of you coffee lovers out there, but if you are able to get the sleep that you need, your body will be able to perform better without that extra cup of coffee. When the urge hits, reach instead for a cup of water or herbal tea.

Finally, one of the best ways that you can help your body fall asleep at night is to stay away from the screen. Instead, opt for reading a book or performing another more relaxing activity, such as meditating.

This is the sign you’ve been waiting for to take that powernap, turn the lights off earlier, and put your phone away.
Get a good night’s sleep. Not only will your body thank you, but so will your mind and soul.