Eating Clean and exercising are 2 important pillars for a healthy life but getting a good night’s sleep equally impacts our body’s ability to function.

Your lifestyle may be interfering with the length and quality of your sleep. We stay up too late, we get up too early, we eat too much, we work too hard and we stress too much. Apparently, since the introduction of artificial light, we, in the industrialized west, sleep at least an hour less each night than was the custom a century ago. In more recent years, we spend more time looking at the “blue lights”: tv, cell phones, computers and as a result, our quality of sleep may be negatively affected. The quality of our sleep is just as important as the number of hours we sleep.

Work hard to establish healthy sleep habits

Although many of us put a lot of effort into eating and exercising for optimal health…what are we doing about ensuring a good sleep? I am guilty as charged. For me, going to bed at a reasonable time has always been a challenge although I do like to sleep in late. Unfortunately, this is not in line with the rest of the world : )

As a result, this change in sleeping habits is playing havoc on our health and weight management. Here are some of the ways our bodies are being affected by poor sleeping habits.

Poor Sleep Can Make You Fat

Poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain. People who are sleep deprived tend to eat more and therefore weigh significantly more than those who get a good sleep. This is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. Research suggests that weight loss is critically affected by the amount and quality of sleep. On the other hand, Good Sleepers Tend to Eat Fewer Calories. Studies show that sleep deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories. Sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation. This includes higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite.

Bottom Line: Sleep more and eat less to reduce weight and risk of obesity.

Good Sleep Can Improve Concentration and Productivity

Sleep critically affects various aspects of brain function including cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation.

As an example, a study of medical interns on a “traditional schedule” showed that they made more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed for more sleep. As well, other studies have found that too short of a sleep can negatively impact some aspects of brain function, simulating alcohol intoxication.

Getting a good sleep, on the other hand, has been shown to improve problem solving skills and enhance memory performance in both children and adults.

Bottom Line: Getting enough sleep can maximize our ability to problem solve and improve memory. Inadequate sleep has been shown to impair brain function.

Good Sleep Can Maximize Athletic Performance

Sleep has been shown to enhance athletic performance. In a study on basketball players(American Academy of Sleep Medicine), a longer sleep was shown to significantly improve athletic performance, reaction time, vigor, fatigue and mood. Alternatively, less sleep has been associated with poor exercise performance and functional limitation in elderly women. Negative effects included slower walking, decreased grip strength and greater difficulty performing independent activities.

Bottom Line: Sleep more to improve your fitness performance, reaction time, strength and mood.

Poor Sleepers Have a Greater Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

Heart and Stethoscope. Get a good sleep to optimize your heart health.

We know that sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many risk factors, including heart disease. Many studies report that short sleepers are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who get a good sleep of 7 to 8 hours per night.

Bottom Line: Sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Sleep Affects Glucose Metabolism and Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Poor sleep habits are strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population. Those sleeping less than 6 hours per night have repeatedly been shown to be at increased risk for type 2 diabetes. The good news is that consistent, good quality sleeps can improve health.

Bottom Line: Many studies show a strong link between short sleep duration and type 2 diabetes risk.

Poor Sleep is Linked to Depression

Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders.

Bottom Line: Poor sleeping patterns are strongly linked to depression.

Sleep Improves Your Immune Function

Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function.

So, if you often get colds, ensuring that you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night could be very helpful. Eating more garlic may help too.

Bottom Line: According to Web MD, lack of sleep suppresses the immune system function. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep can improve immune function and can help fight the common cold. 

Poor Sleep is Linked to Increased Inflammation

Sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in the body. In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. Have you ever had a poor sleep and felt sore, tight and/or achey the next day?  How do you feel after taking a red eye flight?….and for the next 24 -36 hours? How long did it take to recover? Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, in disorders known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD.) Some studies have reported that sleep deprived patients with Crohn’s disease were twice as likely to relapse as patients who slept well.

Bottom Line: Sleep affects the body’s inflammatory responses. Poor sleep is strongly linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and can increase the risk of disease recurrence.

Sleep Affects Our Emotions

Lack of sleep messes with our emotions. I remember my sleep deprived self falling apart in the grocery store when a friend asked me how I was … not pretty.  One study reported by DAVID NIELD from Science Alert, claims that even the smallest of stressful early morning events could cause us to fly off the handle or break down in tears after a night without sleep because our cognitive processing has been compromised.

Bottom Line: Getting a good sleep helps us regulate our emotions to a greater extent. Sleep more, stress less.

Here are some suggestions to help us improve our sleep.

  • Shut off the screens before bed
  • Go to bed at the same time every night
  • Make sure the room is really dark
  • Try Dr. Weil’s breathing relaxation technique; 4 7 8, 2x/ day, everyday.
  • Ask your Dr., naturopath or wholistic nutritionist about taking California Poppy to support sleep
  • Have a short 10 min. nap in the middle of the day. Along with nutrition and exercise, a sufficient amount and quality of sleep is one of the pillars of good health. Optimal health and weight management requires good sleeping habits.
  • Get 8 hours per night.