People want to know what I would suggest for optimal daily function. Any fitness and nutrition coach would be wise to ask some questions before giving answers. The first question I would ask is, are you getting enough Z? Yes Zzz’s. Are you getting enough sleep?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep on a regular schedule each night.” Notice that it wasn’t just about total hours. You need to get good quality sleep which will result in feeling well rested when you wake up.
Scientists have gone to great lengths to fully understand sleep’s benefits. In studies of humans and other animals, they have discovered that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions.
In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality. (“Why Sleep Matters”, Healthy Sleep, Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, 2008)
So let’s break that down a bit. When you get adequate sleep, your immune system and proteins are better able to fight off disease and illness. This also includes your systems antibody response to getting a vaccine. So get your rest before and after you get that shot. Then we address metabolism. That word evokes thoughts of weight loss or gain and athletic performance. Sleep deprivation will increase your levels of the hormone ghrelin, which boosts your appetite and at inopportune moments may lead you to give in to convenient, but unhealthy food options. Additionally, it decreases the hormone leptin, which signals to your appetite that you are full. Ack, double whammy! So you try to offset the consumption by going to workout. Inefficiency abounds because your energy is down, your coordination is off and reaction time is slow. Plus the sleep you didn’t get meant less time that your muscles had to recover and you are feeling that now so be careful because you are stacking the odds in favor of injury. But if you are reading this while tired, you had better bookmark this article for later as your brain will have trouble retaining what is has just learned. While you sleep, your brain processes and stores memories, including learnings. It needs adequate time to do so. And while your brain is processing everything from the day during sleep, your heart is resting and recharging, as your blood pressure lowers, allowing the blood vessels to relax. When you deprive your body of sleep, it can add to feelings of stress and your body releases cortisol, which signals your heart to work harder. Bottom line, while you sleep, your heart doesn’t have to work so hard and a rested body functions more calmly when you are awake.
When I don’t get enough sleep I get moody and I know you must too. Yes, you do too get moody. If you want to argue that point with me, may I suggest a nap? Seriously though, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to mood disorders.
Depression and sleep problems are closely linked. People with insomnia, for example, may have a tenfold higher risk of developing depression than people who get a good night’s sleep. And among people with depression, 75 percent have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. (“Depression and Sleep: Understanding the Connection” Health, Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2021)
So as I wish you good health and restful sleep, I leave you with this quote:
“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” — Thomas Dekker