Sleep is as Important as Exercise and Diet
Want to be healthier? People may point you to eat better and become more active. However, sleep is the other important leg of the stool. Some might jump for joy because they “love to sleep.” However, many people don’t actually have good sleep hygiene. Most people don’t get enough sleep. The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. However, 30% of the working age population actually gets less than 6 hours of sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 25% of the US population is sleep deprived. Those are troubling statistics. Let’s talk about why sleep is important and how to get better sleep.
First, sleep is critical to so many body functions. We’re now learning that sleep plays a critical role in:
- Making our immune systems stronger so that we can fight off colds and infections
- Preventing diabetes by better managing blood sugar
- Managing impulsivity and other behavioral and cognitive issues
- Staving off heart disease
- Lowering blood pressure
- Managing down hunger hormones that fuel our food cravings
As you can see, sleep has many critical functions. Good sleep prevents certain hunger hormones from going into overdrive. As a result, sleep is critical in helping you stay true to your diet. Also, you can exercise more vigorously and get a better workout when you are well rested.
So, getting good sleep is just as important to our other wellness efforts. What are some ways to get that restful sleep? Here are a few tips:
First, make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary by keeping it uncluttered, quiet, dark, and devoid of distractions like TVs, computers, tablets, and phones. Try to get at least 30 to 60 minutes of outdoor sun exposure each day with some activity – walking, jogging, biking. This sun exposure helps to get your body familiar with the difference between day and night. Day is associated with activity, and the night is associated with rest and sleep.
Second, ask your partner or others if you snore. If you do, you may want to ask your healthcare provider about getting a sleep study to see if you have sleep apnea which can be a serious medical condition. If you do have sleep apnea or snore, losing weight is often a good first step to reduce your symptoms.
Third, get into a bedtime routine. Set a firm bedtime and wake time. Stick to the plan. Avoid doing anything stimulating for about 2 hours before bedtime. Don’t nap after 3pm and don’t exercise within 5 hours of sleep time. Good sleep hygiene is as important as your exercise routine!
Sleep is as important to your wellness as diet and exercise. In fact, you’ll be able to stick to diet, stay with your exercise routine, and handle life’s daily stresses better when you are well rested. Understanding the importance of sleep is step number 1.