I’d like to introduce you all to Elly McGuinness. Elly has written extensively in the health and wellness field and she is passionate about sharing her love for building healthy habits every day! I’m excited that she agreed to pop over here to the Reflecting Beautiful Blog and give us some great insight on how to build and maintain healthy sleep habits. Thanks for sharing, Elly!
The Importance of Great Sleep Habits for Health and Well-being
Sleep is an area that is often overlooked when it comes to improving health and well-being. Many people focus solely on nutrition and exercise, without fully appreciating the benefits of regular, good quality sleep. Pressures and habits of modern society often result in people choosing to fit more into their day. This can mean less sleep time, which can have a whole host of consequences.
Why is good quality sleep so important?
On a basic level, you’re probably aware that sleep helps you to feel rejuvenated and able to face the day with enthusiasm. The importance of quality sleep goes a lot deeper than this.
Studies have found that sleep deprivation can result in impaired cognitive function (i.e. reduced ability to think properly) and changes to the hormonal system. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, has a strong association with depression, and can increase the risk for a number of diseases. These are a few reasons to place a high level of importance on getting sufficient rest!
You go through a physical repair phase whilst you sleep. During this time, you release significant levels of growth hormone, thus allowing your muscles to get bigger. Your muscles also repair and get stronger for the day ahead. You restock your physical energy levels, making you more able to effectively complete activities of daily living. And, you have the energy for exercise sessions the following day.
As well as a physical repair phase, you also go through a psychological repair phase while you sleep. This enables you to have focus, be able to think clearly and make important decisions. It also allows you to have the drive and motivation to get things done.
Should you focus on sleep over and above other aspects of health?
There are a number of important areas to consider if optimal health and fitness is your goal. These include nutrition, exercise, stress levels, sleep, thoughts, and relationships. Some people focus primarily on nutrition and/or exercise but tend to ignore other areas such as sleep.
The important thing to note here is that your nutrition and exercise efforts can have a much bigger positive impact on your results if you’re getting good quality sleep. When you are at rest, all the gains from your exercise sessions and healthy eating habits are taking place.
Should you receive inadequate physical repair time while you sleep, you may either choose not to exercise the following day because you don’t have enough energy or you may complete an exercise session at a less than optimal level. This brings with it the potential for decreased performance and results. If you are finding it difficult just to go about general daily tasks due to low physical energy levels then embarking on an exercise session may prove too much of a stress to your body. This could result in illness and burnout.
As well as requiring physical energy for an exercise session, you also require mental energy. Lacking this, you may decide your motivation is inadequate to attempt any form of exercise that day. Had you slept well and other factors in your life remained the same, you would have chosen to do the exercise session and received numerous benefits from doing so.
There is a connection with healthy eating after a good night’s sleep. When you wake up feeling refreshed and energized after a great sleep you are more likely to make nutrition choices that support your health and fitness goals. It is easier to opt for something healthy if you have the energy to prepare it and if you are not craving a quick carbohydrate/fat/salt fix that might be the case after a poor night’s sleep.
When you have had inadequate sleep it’s probable that you’ll want to eat something that will make you feel better instantly. So you’ll grab something unhealthy in an attempt to achieve this feeling and will likely find that it’ll make your body feel worse a few hours later. By now you’re lacking in both sleep and nutrients.
Sleep, exercise, and nutrition are all connected, and when you are lacking in one it can have a knock on effect to the others. Sometimes it is wise to focus on your sleep habits first so that nutrition and exercise become easier to tackle.
Important habits for rejuvenating sleep
- Aim to get 7-9 hours sleep every night
- Your body likes routine. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Of course, you can allow yourself some fun and a break away from routine sometimes, but aim for a consistent routine as a whole
- Plan for lights out by 10:30 pm to stay in tune with normal circadian rhythm
- Get your daily dose of sunlight. This helps to regulate serotonin levels, which is linked to a better night’s sleep
- Take a short power nap during the daytime if you need it
- Meditation or breathing time during the day can help you to rest and rejuvenate. This can help contribute towards a more relaxed state in the evening when you are trying to get to sleep
- Mind your caffeine intake. It can be tempting to provide a band aid solution to your sleep deprived state. However, it can perpetuate your cycle of tiredness, especially because caffeine can prevent you from getting deep sleep. If you have any trouble getting to sleep at night, or with waking during the night, start reducing your caffeine intake and aim to eliminate all caffeine after midday
- Exercise during the day to help use up energy and get you ready for sleep. If you exercise late in the evening, ensure it is a relaxing form of exercise so as to minimize the chance of not being able to fall asleep easily
- Switch off devices an absolute minimum of one hour before bed. Artificial light tells your brain to stay awake
- Calm your busy mind by writing things down to get them out of your head before bed
- Avoid alcohol before bed, as it can prevent you from getting deep, restorative sleep
Elly has been inspiring people to make sustainable changes to their health, fitness, and lifestyle for the past 15 years. She offers online solutions for people who are looking to get started on or improve their health and fitness. She blogs regularly, writes for a number of health and well-being publications and is the published author of a holistic weight loss book.
Elly is mum to a spirited three-year-old girl, and along with her partner Colin they embrace a digital nomad, world schooling lifestyle.
Please take a moment to check out Elly’s social media and give her a shout out!
Check out her FREE fat burning audio download here!
Elly has also written a Holistic Weight Loss Book that is well worth your time.