I get it! I do. Sleep isn’t nearly as sexy as the other things you do for your health and fitness.
Stuff like reigning in your eating habits at the beginning of the year — with a Whole30, for instance — or conquering a particularly tough workout feels more active and demanding, and, therefore, more satisfying in many ways. But ensuring you sleep — high quality and adequate quantity — is one of the most important investments you can make in your health, fitness, and fat burning. (Yes, fat burning!)
I’m super excited to say that it’s Day 5 of my Whole30 (and of the year 2013… we’re in the future!), and I’m feeling stupendous!
It still amazes me every time, but when I follow the Whole30 guidelines without compromise, I sleep a luscious, restful, delicious, invigorating 8 to 9 hours per night. (And twice this week, I slept almost 10!) It’s effortless and feels natural and restorative and oh-so-good. And this is after spending most of my life as a “terrible sleeper.”
As it turns out, January 2 was National Sleep Day (who knew?!), and while we may have missed the date on the calendar, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate right freakin’ now by committing to getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep every night.
Stop! Wait! I know what you’re thinking: You can’t possible get everything done that you need to get done if you sleep that much.
I would argue that you won’t enjoy the full life that you want if you don’t get enough rest. But I’m not here to fight with you; I just share the tasty bits I pick up in my reading travels.
Here’s what I learned recently: (For more details on all these studies, hit up this Huff Post article.)
1. Skimping on sleep increases risk of stroke — even in people without risk factors like smoking, lack of physical activity, or high blood pressure.
2. Too little sleep? Too many poor food choices
In 2012, researchers found that areas of the brain that help us weigh the factors in deciding to eat a certain food were affected by too little sleep, making it harder to come to the conclusion to reach for healthier food. Another study found that too little sleep also leads to more calories consumed throughout the day.
3. Sleep deprivation hits the immune system like stress.
A July 2012 study found that white blood cell counts jumped (just like they do in response to stress) when participants were sleep-deprived.
4. Adequate sleep can “turn off” the obesity gene
“The longer you sleep, the less important genetics become in determining what you weigh,” Dr. Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the University of Washington Sleep Disorders Center, told HuffPost in May. “Does this mean you can sleep yourself thin?” Watson asked. “Probably not. But you can sleep yourself to a point where environmental factors, like diet and activity, are more important in determining your body weight than genetics.”
5. Sleep deprivation increases anxiety
A study from June 2012 found that not getting enough sleep can raise anxiety levels. Andrea Goldstein, who did the research at the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, explained, “…People who are highly anxious may actually be more vulnerable.”
Still not convinced? If weight loss or improved body composition is one of your goals (or intentions!) for 2013, you should probably read this article from WebMD. It’s a great primer on the latest research about weight loss and sleep, and it explains all the hormones that come into play. (Hello, ghrelin! Why are you such a dick?) Here’s a quote to whet your appetite: “Researchers examined studies from the past 15 years on the possible influence of partial sleep deprivation and weight control (where partical sleep deprivation is defined as sleeping fewer than six hours per night)… partial sleep deprivation appears to have a significant impact on weight — how easily it is gained, lost, and maintained.”
And I’d also like to direct you to two posts I wrote that have been updated with new information:
The Sleep of the Righteous, Part 1
This covers my pre-sleep ritual for tips that will help you get ready for sound, restful sleep.
The Sleep of the Righteous, Part 2
This post includes my best tips for tricks to help yourself fall asleep if your mind is keeping you awake.
(And don’t miss this graphic about sleep deprivation… “more dangerous than eating glass!”)
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