Did you get enough sleep last night? If you’re like most people, you probably feel like you could have done with an extra few minutes of shut eye. Insomnia affects a staggering amount of people worldwide, but even those without a diagnosed sleep disorder tend to have a love/hate relationship with sleep. We deprive ourselves of sleep for most of the week, then treat ourselves to a lie on at the weekend and then stay up even later than normal. It’s no wonder that by the time Monday comes around again we’re shattered and shudder at the thought of heading back to work or school.
But what is this haphazard approach to sleep doing to our bodies? We know it’s not ideal to function without a good night’s sleep, but rarely implement a change for the better? Here are 7 compelling reasons to make sure you get enough sleep, starting tonight!
Are you trying to lose a few pounds? Then you need sleep. When we are doing our best to change habits for the better we need willpower. When we’re motivated and have lots of willpower it is easy to turn down even the most appetising culinary treat. But when you haven’t had adequate rest, your willpower tends to slip. It’s easy to see how when we’re tired we want the easiest solution, if we’re hungry we don’t want to have to cook, or to work out. It’s so much easier to relax on the sofa for the evening and – ooh is that a chocolate bar?...
Getting enough sleep gives us the energy we need to stay committed to whatever goals we set ourselves and adds to our get up and go.
In addition to helping us to stay mentally committed to our health goals, getting enough sleep also gives us a physical edge when trying to slim down. When our bodies get sufficient rest at night they don’t feel the need to grab extra calories to keep us ‘up’ wherever they appear. When we’re overly tired we can feel physically exhausted and whether our minds are aware of it, or not, we try to get a hit of energy when we see it. If that happens to be in the form of a food item which we had planned on restricting our plans can get thrown off course.
When this happens, we tend to blame ourselves, claiming that we’re just not strong enough to resist temptation, but really it is more to do with getting adequate sleep.
Putting a strong diet plan in place can help to overcome this issue too. Check out our meal solutions to see how they can help you plan better.
It is so much easier to get up out of bed and hit the gym when you get to bed at a reasonable hour than when you’ve stayed up ‘til all hours watching TV. In this way, getting enough sleep has a cumulative effect on helping you to reach your weight loss and health goals. You have the energy to exercise and exercise at a consistently strong effort when you’re rested and the boost that this provides can set you up for success with your paleo diet too.
The energy our body gets from a good night’s sleep is not just visible in our eating and physical energy levels. It also takes a toll on our mental and cognitive abilities. Our brain and senses need time to relax and recharge too.
Sometimes we forget just how powerful our brains really are and all the tasks it carries out over the course of a day. We only notice when something goes wrong and by the time this happens we’re generally exceedingly sleep deprived. Though you may not notice how efficient you really are when you’re well rested, if you put steps in place to monitor your productivity, you may just realise that with a healthy amount of sleep on a regular basis you get more done during the day, which in turn creates less stress in your life.
Cutting out stress can help with our weight loss goals too as when we are stressed there is more of the stress hormone, cortisol, in your system. High cortisol levels tell our bodies that there is some sort of danger nearby, this pushes our bodies into emergency, fight or flight mode. During this phase, which is supposed to be temporary, non-essential functions in the body are put on hold so that our body can get the energy it needs to escape from the threat. But, what happens when we’re stressed all day every day? Our bodies think they’re helping us by limiting our digestive processes when actually, it’s causing weight gain and other health difficulties.
Our bodies have a natural wake / rest cycle called our circadian rhythm. In the morning, when the sun rises our bodies should have high levels of cortisol to get us up and moving for the day. Then, when we start to wind down as the sun sets, our cortisol levels should come down and be replaced by high levels of melatonin which induces sleep. However, more often than not our circadian rhythms are out of whack. If we have high cortisol levels all day long due to stress it is hard for us to wind down for sleep. Our modern lifestyle doesn’t help matters. When dusk falls, we switch lights on and leave them on well into the night. We use television screens and other devices until we’re ready to go to bed. Many people bring their devices to bed and have a bright screen light up every time they get a social media notification while they’re trying to sleep. Is it any surprise our natural rhythms don’t work well in this environment?
Your circadian rhythm is so important because it tells your body when it needs to perform certain functions. Much like a company’s computer servers will back up overnight when all the daily activity is done, your body does certain tasks while you sleep and others during the day. However, if your body doesn’t know what ‘time’ it is according to your circadian clock, it can’t choose the optimal time for these processes – and everything can start to run at below par performance.
There are things that we can do to help restore the wake / rest cycle somewhat. Setting a regular bedtime and getting up at the same time each day, maintaining good sleep hygiene – that means no screens in the bed, minimal noise and light etc., and beginning to wind down an hour before bed can help us get back into our natural rhythm.
When our bodies are set to the right time, they are setup to work perfectly.
Research has shown that there is a direct link between getting enough quality sleep and the immune system. As mentioned, there are certain processes that occur at night while our body is in rest mode. Our bodies produce and distribute a lot of the hormones that feed into the immune system during the second half of our night’s sleep. However, if we’re not getting enough sleep then our bodies may miss out on this very important part of sleep – and, as a result, the immune boosting hormones.
Even a short-term reduction in sleep can affect our immune systems. You may have noticed this if you find you get a cold or a sore throat after a hectic weekend. Inflammation is one of the effects of not enough sleep and it can lead to a range of health concerns over the long term.
This one is the most obvious point, but it is also the most important one. Getting sufficient levels of quality sleep help us to feel great! No matter what stressful situations we come up against in our daily lives, with enough sleep we are that much better able to deal with it in a positive, proactive manner.
If you are prone to low moods from time to time and know that you’re not getting enough sleep, or simply aren’t prioritising it, addressing this issue may be able to help you combat your low mood to some extent.
Sure, there’s always something to do or a TV show to watch, but are they really as important as feeling good in yourself?
In our world where we expect everything to be ‘always on’, prioritising quality sleep can be difficult. However, with the alternative being that the effects of sleep deprivation essentially ruin all our efforts at maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it is worth investing time and effort in getting some shut eye. You may just find that once you do, you are much more able to achieve your paleo lifestyle goals.