For more on the Science of Sleep, check out my FUELED Wellness + Nutrition podcast where I’m joined by behavioral neuroscientist Erin Hanlon, PhD, discussing all things related to the impact of sleep on our weight, mood, energy and cravings.
When it comes to our whole-body wellness, sleep deserves an equal spot right alongside diet and physical movement. Sleep plays a critical role in our weight, our cravings and our hunger levels, as well as our level of focus, our attitude, and even just how much we enjoy our lives and our experiences throughout our day. Yet forty percent of American adults are sleep deprived, getting less than the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep.
The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington (April 5, 2016, Penguin Random House) is my personal guidebook for bringing about true change in our sleep habits. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Arianna both by phone and via Facebook live; her passion for balance and self-care is unrivaled.
Shifting our patterns so that we start to regularly experience sufficient sleep “truly transforms our life,” says Arianna. “It transforms our productivity, our sense of wellbeing, and our capacity for joy. So often when we are sleep deprived and exhausted, we are running on empty, trying to check things off our to-do list and simply going through the motions, instead of being fully present and bringing joy into our lives.”
“It’s clear that if we are going to truly thrive, we must begin with sleep.”
Sadly, our sleep is consistently compromised, thanks in part to over-extended schedules, anxiety about work or family, and 24/7 access to news and entertainment. We have an increasingly difficult time “turning it off” at night. As a result, our sleep is rarely long enough or sound enough, and so we rely on caffeine and other stimulants to rev us up throughout the day. We repeat the cycle the next evening, unwinding with wine or cocktails, television, mindless scrolling through social media and news sites – all the while fighting our body’s need for more sleep.
“We have to change our behavior, and we must make sleep a priority,” says Arianna.
WHY SLEEP MATTERS
Here are six reasons why sleep matters:
It’ll be easier to drop extra pounds. When we’re sleep deprived, our bodies produce more grehlin (an appetite-stimulating hormone) and less leptin (which helps us feel full). The result: we eat more when we’re sleep deprived. And even when we have the willpower to keep calories in check, chronically skimping on sleep still makes it harder for our bodies to shed the extra body fat.
You’ll look better. It’s not called beauty sleep for nothing. Under-eye circles, brighter skin, and a clearer complexion are just a few of the benefits you’ll notice within days.
You’ll feel better. With more energy, everyday tasks and errands feel less like a chore. Our moods are better, we’re nicer, and we’re more patient when we’re well-rested. And those who get more sleep have a lower risk of depression, anxiety and panic disorder.
You’ll be sharper. While we’re sleeping, our body refreshes and restores the connections between brain cells, which are essential for memory, attention, and overall high level functioning. Chronic lack of sleep is also linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
You’ll have more willpower and self-control. Self-control requires mental energy, and each of us has a limited reservoir, Huffington said. When we’re tired, these energy reserves run low, and our self-control suffers, putting us at a greater risk of succumbing to impulses and compromised decision making. In fact, a study on smokers found that sleep deprivation made it much harder to quit.
You can feel faster, stronger, more powerful. Optimizing our sleep has been proven to help athletes become faster, stronger, more powerful, and recover more efficiently. One of the many benefits of getting enough shut-eye is that our bodies produce growth hormone during sleep, which is essential for building, repairing and maintaining muscle tissue Optimizing the sleep schedules of college and professional athletes is becoming mainstream, as one more tool to help maximize performance.
Clearly there’s a vast amount of scientific evidence about the benefits of sleep. The key is to move from awareness to actually doing something about it by incorporating this knowledge into our daily lives.
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com.