Feeling great: Why sleep is important for health
I write a lot about living a healthy lifestyle, tips on how to keep active and mobile (no matter what age you are), why it's important to look after your body, and what to do when you're sick of putting up with back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, etc, so you can do all the things you love.
But when it comes to health, there is one, simple, easy and free thing that you can do immediately to boost your health – and that’s sleep.
In fact, sleep is important for ALL areas of health, and I’d argue it’s the most important thing you do each day.
When you browse the Internet and read magazine and newspaper articles, you’ll see that sleep is the one thing that all the health gurus agree on.
I’m yet to see a nutritionist or health expert suggesting that the way to achieve our best health is through not getting a solid sleep or finding ways to sleep less… but the shocking truth is that is exactly what many of us do too often.
On the flip side, if you want to gain weight, shorten your life, age quicker, feel more stressed and increase your likelihood of injury, you can experience all of that (and more) by not sleeping enough. And I think you’d agree, that doesn’t sound like something anyone would want.
Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even strokes.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your hunger levels go up! And your ‘feeling full’ levels go down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.
So if you find yourself always feeling hungry and never satisfied, ask yourself if you get enough sleep.
Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin (the hormone that controls your blood sugar levels). If you don’t get enough of it, you could have a higher than normal blood sugar level, making you feel low in energy, and craving sugary things.
Do you ever get mood swings? You can blame a lack of sleep for those moments too. Sleep loss can make you feel irritable, impatient, unable to concentrate and feel snappy when you don’t mean to be. And none of us like to be around that person when mood swings strike.
We spend about one third of our life sleeping, so why is it we struggle to make it a priority?
A lot of us think getting tucked into bed early with the TV on is getting a good nights sleep. It isn’t.
Though you might be ‘winding down early’ (or so you think), sleeping with the TV on after drinking a cup of tea and being awakened by an alarm clock, is not quality sleep.
So getting your environment right is key to setting yourself up for success.
Here’s a few things I’ve found that help me the most personally - Sleeping in complete darkness – covering anything that has a light on it, and investing in a blackout blind.
Sleeping on a good quality mattress. Sleeping as much as my body needs – usually about 8 hours.
Eating healthy the majority of the time and daily exercise, even if that just means a brisk walk outside in the fresh air. And a few acupuncture and massage sessions from the Therapists in the Physio Rooms – which have really helped me to feel less tense, and able to fall asleep, quicker!
So I implore you, please make time to get enough sleep. It’s tremendously important for your health and it doesn’t cost a thing!
I understand how tough it can be, especially if you have kids or grandchildren when those precious hours in the night are sometimes the only ones you get to have a bit of ‘you time’ to unwind. But in the long run, the extra hours of sleep will equal a more happier, patient you.