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One Sheep, Two Sheep, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep…

By Alexis Finniss | In Fitness, Food and Diet, Strong Mom | on March 24, 2014

Did you know that sleeping is as important to your health as diet and exercise?

Can sleep really help me lose weight? Actually, it can, but maybe not in the way you think. People who are sleep deprived tend to make poor choices when it comes to diet and exercise. Ever been a little groggy during the day and opted for that extra cup of coffee or maybe some sugary snacks for a quick pick-me up? How about the “I’m too tired to go to the gym” excuse? What about cooking dinner? How many times have we relied on the drive thru just because we didn’t have the energy to cook one more meal? In addition to poor choices we make when we don’t get enough sleep, our metabolism is not functioning at it’s best when we are sleep deprived. Studies have found that people who get enough sleep not only have lower percentages of body fat, they feel more satisfied and snack less throughout the day!! According to Dr. Breus, our lack of sleep plays a major role in the production of two hormones ghrelin and leptin. “Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin,” Breus says. “Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin.” As a result, “[y]ou are eating more, plus your metabolism is slower when you are sleep-deprived,” this results in weight gain.

Sleep depravation impairs higher levels of reasoning, problem solving and attention to detail. In fact, there have even

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been studies comparing driving while sleep deprived to driving under the influence?!?! Getting enough sleep can help you think more clearly, have quicker reflexes and focus better. It can also help us not be as short tempered with our kids!! Overall, getting enough sleep can:

  1. Improve Memory – Your brain strengthens memories and “practices” skills learned when you are awake.
  2. Curb Inflammation – Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging! People who get six or fewer hours of sleep per night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more.
  3. Spur creativity – In addition to strengthening memories, your brain also re-categorizes and reorganizes memories while you are sleeping allowing you to be open to being more creative when you are awake!
  4. Improve athletic performance – Sleep allows the opportunity for muscles to rebuild and recover which can only occur while at rest.
  5. Improve grades/work and sharpen attention – Adults and children react to sleep depravation differently. Adults tend to get sleepy making it harder to focus and retain information, while children to get hyperactive. Prolonged periods of sleep depravation can result in significant functional impairment.
  6. Lower stress – Sleep impacts both cardiovascular health and cholesterol levels. A good night’s sleep leaves you feeling refreshed and relaxed which greatly impacts your blood pressure. Short-term sleep deprivation is known to raise blood pressure and stress hormones, lower glucose tolerance and even lead to irregular heartbeats.
  7. Help you avoid accidents – Being tired impacts both decision making and reaction time.
  8. Help avoid depression – Good sleep allows one to decrease anxiety and regain emotional stability.

So how do we get the quantity and quality sleep we need? Here are a few tips on developing a healthy sleep routine.

  1. Keep a regular sleep schedule
  2. Naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle
  3. Create a relaxing bedtime routine
  4. Eat right and get regular exercise
  5. Get anxiety and stress in check
  6. Know tips on getting back to sleep if you wake up in the night

More detail and explanations on these tips can be found at http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_tips.htm

As we can see, getting our zzzz’s can have a great impact on our ability to lead and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Let’s start counting some burpees, err, I mean sheep!!

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