Hey everyone! The 8 week plan to renew your health starts now....or tomorrow. I decided to wait until a Sunday to start up the first week. Not because I think goals should start at the beginning of a week only, but because I know most people like to start something new at the start of their week, and not generally in the middle. There's a lot to be said with starting your week off on the right foot! I have been deciding what the 8 weeks is going to look like for the past several days, and the more research I do, the more I am convinced that the most important thing to address first is sleep.
I truly believe that sleep trumps everything when it comes to true health. It trumps exercise, it trumps a clean diet, and it definetly trumps any weight loss or muscle building aids out there. Without sleep, you will never be able to manage your body composition optimally or live a life of radiant health. Here's just a few of the things that are linked to your health when you don't get adequate, restful sleep:
- cardiovascular disease
- diabetes- type 11
- hormonal imbalances
- Immune function suppression
When we sleep, it is our bodies chance to heal and regenerate itself from the daily demands we put on it, not only on a physiological level, but on an emotional level also. During sleep our bodies have the chance to detoxify, regulate blood sugar, balance hormones, and repair damaged muscle and tissues throughout the body.
Weight Loss and Weight Gain
Hormonally, in terms of weight loss and or/weight gain, sleep is directly related and a huge component. If we are hormonally imbalanced, our systems cannot perform at the level we need it to in order for it to be metabolically stable. Studies have shown that people who get 6 or less hours of sleep per night have:
- decreased glucose and insulin sensitivity, which contributes to type 11 Diabetes.
- increase in the hormone ghrelin, which sends off hunger signals ("I'm hungry").
- decrease in the hormone leptin, which sends off signals of satiation ("I'm full").
- increased cortisol levels, which is one of your stress hormones.
- decreased growth hormone levels (GH), which helps the body grow, repair, and combat body fat.
In short, it would then appear that a lack of sleep makes us sick, fat, hungry, and stressed. Probably not the most conducive environment for a healthy mind or body. So what is this weeks focus? To sleep. And by sleep, I mean sleep well. This week I want you to focus on getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night. This may seem difficult to some people and it will mean strategic planning. Here are some strategies that will help you get to sleep, and that will effect the quality of the sleep you are currently getting:
1. Stop eating 2-3 hours before bed- This will help your body to focus on sleep, not digestion. Eating meals too close to bed time will affect your sleep quality.
3. Create a bedtime routine- For me, I like to have a bath (usually in the winter), floss and brush my teeth, pack my gym bag for the morning, then read for 20 minutes.
4. Limit caffeine consumption- Try to stop consuming any caffeine after 1-2pm. Because caffeine is a stimulant and has a half life in your body, you want to stop consumption at least 8 hours before your bedtime.
5. Go to sleep by 10pm (unless you are a shift worker)- There are many reasons to go to sleep at the earlier hours of nighttime, but the main one for you to concern yourself with is simply that you need to get 7-8 hours of restful sleep. The reality is that most people get up around 6am, if not earlier, so by having the lights out by 10pm will allow you to get those hours in. If you're a shift worker this is obviously not always attainable. Instead, create a dark and comfortable environment that allows you to get to sleep easier, and bank those crucial hours.
I am convinced that when we get the sleep we need, everything else starts to fall into order because true homeostasis can be met. You have the right to sleep, so give yourself permission to. In a stressed out and over worked society that demands our constant attention, sleep usually falls to the wayside and is seen as a luxury. Sleep is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and your health is the most valuable asset you have. Allow yourself to mentally turn off at the end of each day and sleep long and soundly.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, or any input you'd like to give to all my readers by leaving your comments!
Rachel Leproult & Eve Van Couter, Department of Medicine, Chicago, Ill. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065172/
Spiegel K, Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. Lancet. 1999;354:1435-1439