What do you think of when you think of being healthy? Absence of disease and illness? Being thin? Being fit? Eating certain foods? Not eating certain foods?
What about sleep? Where does that fall on your list of healthy habits?
Science has proven that getting adequate sleep is a crucial pillar of health.
I believe getting adequate sleep is more important than the food we eat.
That probably sounds down right bonkers coming from a nutrition coach.
Don’t stop reading now thinking chowing down on a bag of Doritos or dipping into the candy jar 15 times a day is good practice. Definitely not where I’m going with this!
Here’s the deal. Sleep is the primary regulator of all the systems in the body. Digestion, cognition, hunger, mood, immunity, and more. You name it, it’s affected by sleep. If you’re not getting at least 8 hours of restful sleep, it’s likely your health will be in jeopardy at some point if it’s not already.
WHY IS SLEEP SO DARN IMPORTANT?
Not getting adequate sleep disrupts ghrelin and leptin, the hormones in our body responsible for regulating hunger and satiety. Ghrelin stimulates appetite and leptin suppresses the appetite. With reduced or disrupted sleep, ghrelin levels go up and leptin levels go down. As a result, your appetite is increased and the amount of food your body thinks you need is increased. All of this equates to weight gain. Not to mention, poor sleep equals stress on the body. Stress leads to weight gain and inability to lose weight.
When we sleep our body is resting and repairing. Digestion takes a great deal of energy throughout the day. Our digestive tract needs that time in the night to rest, relax, and prepare for the work it will need to do the next day. Poor or disrupted sleep leads to an unhappy digestive system. Digestion becomes sluggish, you feel bloated, heavy, and generally unwell. During the day when we’re stressed we tend to reach for caffeine, sugar, and other processed foods that wreak havoc on our digestive system. All of this leads to poor gut health which leads to poor digestion.
3.Mental and Emotional Health
Inadequate sleep decreases the level of dopamine and serotonin receptors in our brain. Dopamine is responsible for awake and arousal and serotonin is known as the happy hormone. The biological deficiency of these two hormones leads to feeling depressed and anxious. Feeling depressed and anxious affects the way we think about ourselves, others, and our life- usually not in a good way.
Lack of sleep impairs cognitive function. When we’re fatigued, our brain works slower. Our thinking, reactivity, focus, and attention are impaired. Brain fog occurs, and memory is impacted.
Poor sleep causes stress on the body which leads to inflammation. All disease and illness are rooted in inflammation. Prolonged inflammation leads to chronic disease and illness. Examples of chronic illness include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer to name a few.
Inadequate sleep impairs how well your immune system works. This is also related to digestion because 70% of our immune system is found in the gut. If the gut is damaged, the immune system won’t be working right either. When the immune system is impaired for an extended amount of time, the body begins to attack itself leading to autoimmune conditions. Examples include Hashimoto’s, Muscular Dystrophy, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 2 Diabetes to name a few.
There’s a little bit of chicken and egg with this one. Stress often causes poor sleep. Poor sleep also creates and exacerbate the stress you already have in your life. Whether stress is causing the poor sleep, or the poor sleep is causing stress- you feel terrible either way.
Cortisol is the stress hormone in our body that is excreted whenever we experience real or perceived stress. When cortisol is at high levels for long periods of time, our body compensates by borrowing the hormone DHEA. DHEA is the precursor to the sex hormones. If our body is depleted of DHEA, sex hormones will be low. Low hormones affect everything from libido, mood, to weight.
Getting 8-9 hours of sleep can significantly improve the quality of your health and life. Not sure where to being when it comes to getting better sleep? Get my guide to better sleep and start today!