It’s pretty well understood that sleep is a necessity for good health. But in this overly hectic world, quality sleep seems to get pushed to the back burner. People make time for the gym and try to eat healthy, but so many individuals neglect their sleep habits when thinking about making healthy lifestyle changes.

Quality sleep is essential for physical and mental health. When we sleep, our body is able to restore energy, rebuild muscles, process information and store memories, and simply maintain normal body functions. Sleep deprivation may result in trouble concentrating and making decisions, poor reaction time, and lack of control of emotions. Chronic sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of chronic medical conditions and weakens the immune system, thus increasing the risk of getting sick.

Sleep also helps regulate important hormones that affect our hunger and weight. You may be exercising and eating right, but if you are in a state of chronic sleep deprivation, you are likely not losing weight. This is because when your body is deprived of sleep, cortisol levels increase and stay elevated at times they should drop. This stress-hormone is responsible for weight gain, particularly in the mid-section. Inadequate sleep will also throw off the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which are responsible for hunger regulation. In simple terms, ghrelin increases hunger and leptin decreases hunger. When we are sleep deprived, ghrelin increases and leptin decreases, resulting in an increased feeling of hunger. This dysregulation of hormones will lead to cravings and likely over-eating.

It can be difficult to get enough sleep, and especially good quality sleep. Here are few things to consider to help make your nights more restful:

Maintain a Routine: Establish a bedtime and wake time and try to maintain that routine even on weekends and when traveling. There will obviously be times you have to wake up earlier or go to bed later but being as consistent as possible will have huge benefits.

Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: If you find yourself tossing and turning, cut the afternoon caffeine, and even watch your consumption earlier in the day.  Try herbal tea instead of caffeinated beverages in the afternoon and at bedtime. Alcohol should also be avoided before bed. Even if you fall asleep, the quality will be poor and you will likely feel tired in the morning.

Avoid Screens Before Bed: Playing on your phone or watching TV right up until bedtime may be affecting your sleep. The bright screen stimulates brain function and may lead to more restless nights.

Manage Stress: Easier said than done, but getting a handle on your stress will help promote more quality sleep. Meditating or journaling before bed can help you let go of the stressors of the day and allow you to sleep more soundly.

Get Comfortable! This may seem obvious, but your mattress, pillows, and sleep conditions should be comfortable! This may mean keeping pets out of the bed and investing in a better mattress. If you get warm at night, there are mattresses and pillows that help regulate body temperature and keep you cool. Quality mattresses can be expensive, but this is something you use everyday and is an important investment for your health!

It is crucial to adopt healthy sleep practices as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. The choices we make during the day are only part of the equation. Without adequate sleep, our bodies will not be able to function optimally.
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