Most people’s New Year’s resolutions are focused around exercise and diet. This year, I would like you to consider a resolution to improve your sleep habits. Sleep is a very important element of your overall health and can also benefit your exercise and diet. When we don’t sleep enough, the body has difficulty processing protein, which in turn can cause muscle loss. So even if you are exercising and trying to eat healthy, you will not have much success if you are not getting enough sleep.
Studies suggest that adults should sleep 7-9 hours per night while children require 10-12 hours per night. The Center for Disease Control indicates that 35% of adults are sleep deprived (getting less than six hours/night). Lack of sleep can lead to a variety of health concerns including:
· Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
· Increased weight gain (Sleep loss stimulates appetite and cravings for high fat, high carb foods)
· Inflammation and joint pain
· Reduces the body’s ability to produce HGH (Human Growth Hormone), which is responsible for building muscle, strengthening bones, and improving skin
· Weakens the immune system, leaving you susceptible to illness
Proper sleep has been known to have many benefits from reducing stress and improving your ability to handle difficult situations, to an improvement in concentration and your ability to learn and problem solve. Amazingly enough, sleep is also believed to decrease your appetite due to proper amino acid levels that result from catching more Zs. Proper sleep also allows your body to repair and recover from exercise and daily activities while improving your energy levels.
So what can you do to get more (and better) sleep this year?
· Create a consistent schedule, go to sleep at the same time each evening and wake at the same time each morning.
· Have a ritual you follow leading up to bedtime, it may be a bath, meditation, reading a book, listening to relaxing music, etc. Whatever calms you and will allow you to transition from the busy day
· Manage your stress by clearing your mind of the stressors of the day through practices like mindful breathing
· Make sure you are comfortable in your bedroom by paying attention to the temperature, sleep position, condition of your mattress, clothing, etc.
· Don’t eat too close to bedtime
· Exercise/physical activity during the day to expand excess stress/energy
We ask a lot of our body and mind every day, but in order for it to stay healthy and perform to our expectations we must give it the rest it deserves. Start this New Year with a commitment to getting proper rest and enjoy its many benefits as a result.