This post is sponsored by Tomorrow Sleep. All opinions are my own.
Sleep – the unsung health hero, and yet many of us know so little about it! If you’re having any health issues, can’t lose weight, or want to know more about increasing your overall health, then this post is for you!
Read on to learn more about why getting quality sleep may be the missing link to living that healthy lifestyle you’ve always wanted.
Understanding the benefits of quality sleep
Getting quality sleep has huge affects on both your mental and physical health.
Just because you go to sleep doesn’t mean that your body stops. You may be mentally checked out. But your heart is still beating, lungs are pumping and blood is flowing. You’re just not paying attention.
Quality sleep improves your learning abilities. It replays and resolves everything that went on during the day. This means that anything that you learned will be broken down and solidified in your brain. Which equals the ability to learn more quickly.
Quality sleep also improves your problem solving abilities and creativity. Giving your brain a break from constantly thinking allows it to focus on higher level things. So while you’re sleeping, your brain is figuring out the best way to approach a problem and resolves it for you.
Physically, when you sleep, your body is in a state of rest and digest. Sleep is like bringing your car into the shop for a tune up. This is when healing, repair, and growth of your heart, blood vessels, muscles and tissues happens.
Another amazing thing happens while you sleep. Your immune system starts functioning better. A increase in immunity means that you’ll be able to fight off sickness like the common cold much easier. This leads to living a happier, healthier and more productive life. Who doesn’t want that??
Last but not least, less than six hours of sleep per night is linked to an increase in inflammation. As you may know, inflammation is the cause of lots of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. With quality sleep, we can reduce our chances of dealing with chronic disease.
Impact of irregular sleep
Now it’s time for the impact of irregular sleep. In this case we’re not talking about the amount of time you spend laying horizontal in your bed. But the amount of quality sleep you’re actually getting.
You can go to bed at 10:00 pm, wake up at 8:00 am and still get bad sleep.
Impacts in the short term:
- Compromised decisions/problem solving.
- Decreased productivity/slower reaction.
- More mistakes.
- Trouble controlling emotions – ever have those days when no matter what happens you can’t stop crying? This is a sign that it’s time to go to sleep!
- Decreased willpower = more bad decisions.
In the long term:
- An increased risk of heat disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. This is due to an increase in inflammation as a result of decreased sleep.
- Increased risk of obesity.
- Compromised immune function.
- More severe mood disorders such as depression, thoughts of suicide and risk taking behavior.
Being sleepy can be annoying and cause weight gain issues. But it can also cause more serious health issues as well.
Sleep and fat loss
When looking at the four components of fat loss, why is sleep important? We know why diet, exercise, and stress are linked to fat loss. But sometimes it’s not clear as to why sleep is linked to fat loss.
It’s so easy to skip the things we need to do to lose weight when we’re tired. I don’t know about you, but it’s 10 times harder to get to the gym and cook a healthy meal when I’m lacking sleep then when I have tons of energy. This leads to a decrease in activity and an increase in eating unhealthy take out.
In addition to affecting lifestyle, a lack of sleep affects our bodies on a physiological level too. We can’t see these things happening, but believe me, they are there! Here are just a few negative affects on our bodies when we don’t sleep well.
- Decreased insulin and glucose sensitivity.
- Increased cortisol levels.
- Increased visceral fat deposit – linked to an increase in cortisol levels.
- Increased hunger from hormones Leptin and Ghrelin – hormones that regulate your metabolism and appetite. A lack of sleep increases Ghrelin which says “eat more” and decreases Leptin which says “put the fork down”.
What research says:
There has been tons of research done on how getting enough sleep affects our bodies and overall functioning. I think it’s important to look at these findings to solidify why getting quality sleep is so important for our overall health.
Here’s what the research says:
- Sleep starved people have increase late night snacking and are more likely to choose high-carb snacks. (that increase in Ghrelin)
- People eat bigger portions of all foods which increases weight gain.
- In the review of 18 studies, researchers found that a lack of sleep led to increased cravings for energy-dense, high carbohydrate foods.
In short, this research shows that a lack of sleep equals an increase in cravings for junk food and less will power.
How much sleep do you need?
Now that we know why sleep is so important to our health, mental wellness and fat loss. How much sleep do we actually need? In the end of the day this is a like a water recommendation. There isn’t an exact answer that will fit everyone.
The amount of sleep you need depends on many factors. How old are you? What are your daily physical demands? How do you feel after sleeping for 10 hours versus 6? Some people function the best at 6 hours of sleep. Whereas others need 10 hours of sleep.
I haven’t found any research that says that anything under 6 hours of sleep per night is good for our bodies. But what I did find is that we should be sleeping a minimum of 6 hours and a max of 10 hours per night. With the average being 7-8 hours of sleep.
Kids and teenagers need more sleep due to constant growth. And professional athletes need more sleep due to the demands they’re putting on their bodies. In these cases 10+ hours of sleep per night is ideal.
What’s important here is to understand how much sleep YOU need. There’s a big difference between 6 and 10 hours of sleep, and getting too much sleep is also not ideal.
Understanding your sleep
Understanding your sleep is the first step towards optimizing the amount of sleep you need. There are a number of tools out there to help you figure this out.
A few examples are:
- FitBit – tracks your sleep
- Sleep Cycle – an app that also tracks your sleep
- Sleep Log – manual tracking
I suggest using some sort of tracker to really understand your sleep, and to optimize how much sleep you need. This will only make life easier in the long run. And you will feel so much healthier too!
Sleeping on a quality mattress is also huge component of getting excellent sleep each night! My favorite mattress out there is by Tomorrow Sleep. This mattress has temperature regulating memory foam in addition to a stabilizing coil system. I get a really nice balance of comfort and support while I sleep which makes for an energetic morning! Check them out here!
And speaking of sleep trackers – Tomorrow Sleep offers this little thing called a Sleeptracker® Monitor. It analyzes your sleep cycles, breathing rate, heart rate and movement to offer personalized suggestions for better sleep….just a heads up.
Are you getting enough sleep? Let us know in the comments below!