April 12, 2013

Sleep: More Important than a Healthy Diet. ~ Katja Heino

courtesy of Photodropper

Update: Sleep loss boosts hunger, unhealthy food choices (sciencebulletin.org)

Don’t let lack of sleep sabotage your healthy lifestyle.

Did you know that you would die from sleep deprivation before you starved to death?

It takes two weeks to die from starvation while 10 days without sleep would likely kill you. Sleep deprivation is increasingly becoming a public health epidemic as more and more people are suffering from not enough rest. Insufficient sleep contributes to depression, weight gain, cognitive impairment, cardiovascular problems, metabolic issues like diabetes, premature aging, cancers, low grade inflammation and mood swings.

More than 1/3 of Americans have trouble sleeping every night, 51 percent of adults say they have problems sleeping at least a few nights each week and 43 percent of respondents report that daytime sleepiness interferes with their normal daytime activities. The number of adults aged 20 to 44 using sleeping pills doubled from 2000 to 2004. And seeing that 1/3 of American adults now get less than six hours of sleep a night, my guess is that the problem is only going to get worse.

 An hour before midnight is worth two after. ~ Unknown

Research indicates that not only is it important to get enough hours of sleep but to also sleep at the right time. Sleeping from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. will leave you much more rested than sleeping from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. This is due to the fact that earlier in the evening is conducive to deep, non-REM sleep while as we approach dawn, our bodies are more prone to active REM sleep. This is definitely true for me. I feel the most vital when going to bed by 10 p.m. and waking early. Unfortunately, I find myself staying up way too late and still getting up with my early riser every morning by 6:30 a.m.

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book. ~ Irish Proverb

After spending years learning about and focusing on my health and diet, I have come to the conclusion that sleep is the most important component of a health lifestyle. You absolutely cannot be healthy without the proper amount of sleep. Our bodies and our emotional selves depend on this period of rest to function properly.

courtesy of Photodropper

During sleep, our bodies regenerate and repair tissues and go through many other restorative processes. Not only does sleep help you recover after a long day, but also is crucial for hormone balance, immunity, emotional processing and detox. You can eat all the healthy food that you want and take all the expensive supplements that you can, but without proper sleep, your body will not be able to heal and maintain vitality.

So, let go of obsessing about your diet. Let go of extreme diets and food restriction. Stop exercising until you are exhausted on the floor. And get some rest. Making sleep a priority in your life will do more for you than all the supplements lined up on the counter or the next super food you heard about in the news.

 Simple tips for getting better quality sleep.

>>>Go to sleep at the same time every day. A routine cues the body to settle down for the night.

>>>Avoid stimulants. Coffee, sugar, and chocolate are all so tasty but are not conducive to good rest. If you must indulge, keep to the earlier part of the day.

>>>Reduce the amount of stress in your life. This is a tricky one. I encourage you to make good choices for yourself regarding the things that create stress for you. We have choices in who we spend time with, what we allow into our lives, and how we let all of that affect us. And for stressful things that are out of our control, finding effective coping techniques is essential for good health. Deep breathing and yoga are my go-to allies here.

>>>Exercise. Regular, moderate exercise is a great way to relieve muscle and mental tension. Try to avoid strenuous exercise in the evening as it can be over-stimulating. Gentle yoga is more appropriate for night time.

>>>Make your bed a place for sleep. Make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep. Keep the TV, computer and work out of the bed. Let your bedroom be a haven from the busy-ness of life.

>>>Reduce exposure to artificial light. Artificial light throws off our circadian rhythm and impairs our body’s ability to produce proper sleep hormones. Chris Kresser gives some practical tips to reduce light exposure:

courtesy of Photodropper

Don’t use a computer for two hours before going to bed. No late nights on Facebook and Twitter!

Use blackout shades to make your bedroom pitch black.

Cover your digital alarm clock or get an analog clock.

Turn off all digital devices that glow or give off any type of light.

If you can’t do these things for some reason, use a sleep mask.




Katja Heino is a mama, devoted yogi, yoga teacher and kitchen witch at her health and wellness blog, the Savory Lotus. Real, unprocessed foods and embracing the good life. Read more about her search for balance in life at www.savorylotus.com.

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Asst. Ed.: ShaMecha Simms/Kate Bartolotta

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