Don’t Sleep on the Power of Rest

Those of you who know me or have been following my blogs know how much I “preach” about getting your workouts in, being active, prepping healthy meals, journaling, etc.  It likely sounds like I want everyone to go, go, go all the time.  We DO need to be active over being sedentary.  Eating clean nutritious meals takes effort – planning, preparation, and implementation.  But there is a very real issue in overdoing, over taxing your body and your brain, and in over training.  Rest HAS to be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.  There is a very real difference between getting rest and being lazy!  Your body needs rest, and it needs at least seven (7) to eight (8) hours of sleep each night.  Believe me, I know how difficult that can be!  Even if I had eight hours to sleep, I’m at an age when my body just won’t sleep straight through more than a couple of hours at a time.  

First, let’s look at all of the benefits sleep provides, per SCLHealth, and the American Heart Association, just to name a few.  Even though this seems pretty obvious, there might be some hidden jewels!  

1. A good night’s sleep boosts your immune system.  We’ve always been told that sleep is the best medicine, and that we need to rest when our bodies are sick.  Getting enough rest can actually strengthen our immune systems and prevent us from getting sick!

2. Getting the proper amount of sleep can aid in the prevention of weight gain.  Guess what comes into play here?  Hormones – yup, those always pesky hormones!  NOT getting enough quality sleep causes your body to produce the hormone ghrelin, which boosts appetite.  At the same time, your body decreases the production of the hormone leptin, which tells you you’re full when eating.   So – without adequate rest, your body reacts by telling you you’re hungry more often but lacks the ability to let you know you’re actually full.  This can lead to extra snacking and to cravings for junk foods!

3. A good night’s sleep can strengthen your heart.  When you’re tired, especially over tired or in a state of near exhaustion, your body releases cortisol – yet another hormone – which is a stress hormone that causes your heart to work harder.  A lack of adequate rest can lead to a rise in your blood pressure and can even lead to a heart attack.

4. Getting more quality sleep can improve your mood!  I know this one seems obvious, which is all the more reason to get that sleep in!

5. If being overly tired causes you to be less productive, can you imagine how much better your day will go if you get quality sleep?!  Not only your mood is improved, your productivity and your focus will be improved!

6. Getting quality sleep can surely improve your athletic performance!  This is true regardless of your sport of choice – lifting weights, running, soccer, basketball, dance, Crossfit, yoga, etc.

The biggest obstacle is life itself, isn’t it?  We are all so busy!  We have our children, their schedules, spouses and their schedules, jobs, meals to prepare, dishes and laundry, etc., etc,   So let’s look at some tips that can help us get that quality sleep, from some very reputable sources such as Healthline and the Mayo Clinic.

  • Try to get more exposure to bright light each day.  If your work environment is dark, try opening windows or at least let the light shine in at home!  Natural light is obviously the best, so get outside as much as possible when you can.
  • Try to decrease the amount of screen time in the evening.  The “blue light” emitted from computers, smart phones, and tablets.  Exposure to these lights affect your circadian rhythm by tricking your brain into thinking it’s still daytime.  This can cause your body to produce less of the hormone melatonin, which causes your body to relax and aids sleep.  There are tips here:  1) wear special glasses that block the blue light  2) Install an app that blocks the blue light on your smartphones; they are available for both android and iPhones.  3) Turn off the tv and any bright lights 2 hours before turning in for the night.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day
  • Avoid or at least reduce irregular or long daytime naps.  Short, “power” naps (about 30 minutes in length), however, can be beneficial!
  • Do your best to set a consistent bedtime and waking schedule.  Your body will adjust – just like the sleep schedule you set for your children.  It will work for grown ups, too!
  • Try taking a melatonin supplement.  Since this is the hormone your body naturally produces that aids in sleep, it is completely natural.  By taking only 2mg before bedtime, you may have improved quality of sleep and wake up feeling more energized.
  • Evaluate your bedroom environment.  Look at factors such as temperature, noise, external lights, and even how your furniture is arranged.
  • Avoid eating late at night, especially heavy foods
  • Establishing a bedtime routine can be very helpful.  Try setting a consistent routine about 30 to 45 minutes before your bedtime.  This can include relaxing in hot bath, listening to relaxing music, reading a book, deep breathing, etc.
  • Make sure you have a comfortable pillow, mattress, and sheets!
  • Just to be safe, if after instituting these things with no improvement, see a doctor to rule out a sleep disorder.
  • Get regular exercise!!!  You knew it was in here, right?  Not right before bed (unless you try some restorative yoga), of course, but getting in some regular exercise will definitely improve your sleep!

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