The Role of Sleep in a Healthy Lifestyle
When reflecting on whether we are living a healthy lifestyle, we tend to immediately focus on what types of foods we have been eating and how much exercise we have been participating in lately. Even though diet and exercise do play particularly important roles in our health and wellbeing, sleep is an equally key factor that often gets overlooked.
Getting the right amount of sleep each night does more than just ensure that your eyes are not red and baggy, it also works to support you both physically and mentally, as well as improve your overall well-being and attitude.
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So, what makes sleep so important?
The average adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, depending on the individual. Sometimes it is just not possible, and we have all experienced how not getting enough sleep can impact upon how we feel for the rest of the day. Yet there are many other reasons why getting a healthy amount of sleep each night is so important. These include:
Supporting growth and development. When participating in resistance training exercises, the body’s muscle fibres are being stressed and torn. The body uses this sleep period to help build and repair the damaged fibres as well as work on general cell growth and development throughout the whole body.
Sharpens your attention and improves memory. Lack of sleep and oversleeping can both leave you feeling sluggish and impair your brain’s ability to absorb, retain and recall information.
Regulates the immune system. Insufficient amounts of sleep affect the production of cytokine within the body, which can result in lowered immune response. So, you are more likely to catch a cold or the flu when you have been neglecting your shut eye over a refined period.
Regulates moods. You have experienced how lack of sleep impacts upon your general mood. If you are feeling physically tired and run down, you are more likely to experience negative emotions such as anger, irritation, frustration or sadness.
Regulates weight. Having a healthy amount of sleep each night helps regulate weight by ensuring that when we are awake, we have the energy needed to move about and get things done. Consistent lack of sleep, or too much sleep leaves us feeling lethargic, sluggish and fuzzy headed, as well as makes us more inclined to make ‘comfort’ choices when it comes to foods.
Improves heart function. Regular healthy sleep patterns work to regulate blood pressure. Because most people’s blood pressure drops whilst they are asleep, building up a sleep debt over a period stresses the body causing it to release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can also lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Supports the endocrine system. Many of the body’s hormonal functions occur during sleep and lack of sleep can impact upon the release of growth hormones as well as fertility hormones.
Gives us a break from thinking. We all need a break from the pressures and thoughts of each day. Drifting off into a comfortable and sufficient sleep, helps us to relax and unwind, ready to resume when we wake.
How can I promote healthy sleep patterns into my life?
Exercise is a fantastic way to help regulate your sleep patterns. With regular exercise, consisting of both endurance and resistance training, your body will naturally feel more exhausted in the evening times. Remember that participating in a workout straight before you go to sleep will stimulate your body and mind, so try to leave a couple of hours between your last workout/sports activity and the time you go to bed.
Eating early instead of just before you go to sleep will help ensure that your digestive system is not still powering away at metabolising your last meal.
Avoid stimulants for up to 4 hours before you go to bed, such as refined sugars and caffeine products, as these will impact upon your ability to get a good long sleep.
Create a routine. The circadian rhythms of the body work best when we incorporate an element of routine into our lifestyle. So, try to set yourself specific times to go to bed and then wake up each day. If you are used to an erratic pattern, then you may find it can take time adjusting. But by forcing yourself to wake up at a specific time each day, your body will begin to adjust, and you will notice more consistency in your physical and mental well-being.
So, when working on improving and maintaining your healthy lifestyle, by evaluating your diet and exercise regimen, be sure that you are incorporating adequate sleep into the equation!
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