Do you ever stop to think about how interesting it is that no matter who you are, no matter your background, what your dietary, workout, religion or political beliefs are every human on the planet needs to do one thing every single day in order to function properly – sleep.
We can go weeks without food (or 382 days like one person did intentionally while fasting), or days without water but if we go even one day without sleeping our entire physiology begins to change.
ONE DAY without sleeping leads to impaired cognitive function.
From an evolutionary perspective it makes no sense. When we’re sleeping we are at our absolute most vulnerable to attack from a predator. It appears to be one of our weakest attributes, so why wasn’t that phased out through the millions of years of evolution? We started walking upright, got some handy opposable thumbs and stopped growing hair covering our entire bodies, but we couldn’t get rid of this need for sleep that makes our species extremely vulnerable.
These are the kinds of things I think about…welcome to the inside of my head.
For cognitive function alone (i.e. how your brain works) quality sleep might be more important than anything else. When you’re sleeping your brain is preparing for the next day, creating new pathways for learning and memory. If you’re trying to learn something – from math to Spanish to playing the piano – you’ll remember more and learn faster if you practice right before you go to bed. This is one of the reasons why I do my Spanish lessons right before bed.
From a health perspective sleep deficiency is linked to everything from obesity, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and kidney disease. If those look familiar it’s because they make up the leading causes of death in North America.
Not convinced yet? A group of researchers from Chicago found that people with better sleep patterns lost up to 56% MORE BODY FAT and held on to more lean muscle during a weight loss plan. Losing more fat and keeping more muscle just from sleeping. I’d say that’s something to pay attention to.
Try going a day without sleep and then see what your food cravings are like. I can guarantee they will be more severe and you’ll be much more likely to hit that drive thru or grab something sweet during the day. Lack of sleep affects all of that. It affects your hormones, how your body responds to insulin, the balance of ghrelin and leptin (the hormones that make you feel full and satisfied or hungry and craving food) in your body and how your immune system functions.
Are you starting to see why I find this so interesting?
Now that we know how important sleep is, what can we do to ensure we’re getting enough good quality sleep?
While I’m nowhere near perfect, here are a few things I try to do and recommend to clients:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time EVERY SINGLE DAY
- Sleep in complete darkness. Get blackout curtains so there is absolutely no light getting into your room
- Keep your lights dim in the evening, or better yet turn them off and use candles
- No screens (phone, laptop, TV, iPad, tablet) for 60 minutes prior to bed
- Essential oils with lavender (this has really helped me, personally)
- Have some chamomile tea before bed
- Don’t have kids (kidding…kind of…)
- Don’t let your cat/dog in the bed with you (my biggest struggle…thanks a lot Harlow)
- Do a “brain dump” of everything you’re thinking about onto a piece of paper
- Use Brain.FM like I discussed in one of last weeks emails
- Aim for 7-9 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night
Do you have do all of this? No, absolutely not. I sure don’t. But the more consistent I am with a few of them the better I sleep and the better I feel.
If you’re having issues sleeping, try a couple of them and be consistent over a couple weeks. Take note of how you feel and adjust as you go.
You might be surprised just how much a good night’s sleep can impact your day and how you feel.