You see health magazines and professional organizations constantly extolling the virtues of a good night’s rest. In fact, in the fields of health coaching, weight loss, and improving lifestyles, sleep is ALWAYS listed as one of the KEY factors.
In spite of that, sleep often seems to play second fiddle to the other areas of living a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition and exercise come to mind.
What many people don’t realize is that you can’t have one without the other. You may try to eat well and follow the exercise guidelines, but not getting enough sleep can undermine both of those efforts.
At this point, let’s take a little trip over to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. If you love statistics, maps with incidence indicators, and lists of stuff, this is the place to be. They break down how much sleep people are getting by state, congressional district, county, race, ethnicity, and even year in high school. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of information!
But let’s cut to the chase.
According to the CDC, enough sleep is defined as getting at least 7 hours in every 24-hour period.
Apparently back in the day (think pioneers), people were getting around 9 hours of sleep on a regular basis. After all, they did not have phones, internet, TV, or close neighbors with radios blaring. Their circadian rhythms were given free reign. Obviously, we do not have that lifestyle anymore, so we have to work harder at tuning out and getting some much needed shut-eye.
The brutal facts.
The CDC provides a list of disease states that can come along due to lack of sleep. Here goes:
- Heart attack
- Coronary heart disease
- Chronic kidney disease
People who study this kind of thing have found that lack of sleep messes with your hormones. Not paying attention to your circadian rhythms is really an overview of the situation, and not the specifics of what happens.
A couple of scenarios.
A 2005 study of about 10,000 adults found that those who slept less than 7 hours a night were significantly more likely to be obese. There was another study done on 9,000 children that found similar results.
Further study has shown that lack of sleep disrupts the hormones that regulate appetite. Instead of normal flux, the hormones that stimulate hunger are in the forefront. On top of that, there are cravings for energy dense, processed foods like sweets, baked goods, and bread. Here you can visualize that classic scene of someone on the couch late at night, consuming a load of ice cream.
Other studies have investigated problems with insulin resistance connected with not enough sleep. This can easily lead to glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes.
Pile that on top of increased hunger for sweets and the tendency to gain weight, and you have the perfect storm. Side note: Lack of sleep also makes it feel harder to exercise. Yet another whammy.
Little wonder that sleep is an essential part of the quest to stay healthy.
Just in case you have not seen the recommendations for HOW to get the sleep you need, here you go:
- Keep a relatively consistent bedtime and wake-up time.
- Keep the bedroom extremely dark.
- Use a white noise device if need be to block out random sounds.
- Develop a relaxing pre-bed routine.
- Keep the bedroom between 66 and 72 degrees F.
- Do not consume stimulants like caffeine or nicotine after midday.
- Exercise regularly.
- Keep away from heavy meals before bed.
The final bottom line: Getting enough sleep IS an essential ingredient of a healthy lifestyle, not to be overlooked as a minor player. So do your best!
© 2020 Kristen Carter, MS. All rights reserved.