Why Sleep is Essential to Health & Happiness

There seems to be endless advice for how to bring more health and happiness into our lives, from supplements and superfoods to timed-interval training and aerial yoga. When we’re busy, overworked and overstressed, who has time to juice three pound of kale every morning? Or sign up for the latest aqua-weightlifting-aerobics class?

294b7ed08566ab192654e9f15e9f4316The path to health isn’t paved by miracle cures, but by a simple one: more sleep. The quantity and quality of sleep has a profound effect on our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night helps boost brain power, muscle building, mental clarity, mood, and basic bodily function. If you do anything for your body today, ensure you get some solid shut-eye tonight.

When you work out, it’s even more essential that you get your snooze on – sleep is prime time for muscles to recover and rebuild. Heck, your body even heals your blood vessels when you’re dreaming away.

Since a lack of sleep is perceived by our bodies as a ‘sressor’, we wake up with raised levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is every fit girl’s nightmare, the monster in the closet that drives us to crave fat, sweet and salty foods and hold on to body fat like nobody’s business. Thus, plenty of sleep can help curb cravings and improve the food and health-based decisions we make throughout the next day.

Getting rest also helps our muscles rebuild; while we’re drifting off into dreamland, our bodies are in overdrive to repair and recover our muscles, tendons, ligaments and cells. Adequate sleep helps  us have a better workout the next day, and contribute to greater recovery and performance throughout our entire week.

Sleep is awesome….what if I have trouble sleeping?

We’ve established that sleep is pretty badass. A lot of overworked and overstressed Americans, though, find slumber a bit elusive.

The National Sleep Foundation ranked stress as the number one cause of short-term sleeping difficulties, such as poor quality of sleep and simply not getting enough. While most of these problems pass when the stress does, failure to tackle sleep difficulties – and prolonged stressors – can cause recurring and long-term complications that are disruptive to a normal, healthy life.

Thankfully, we’re the masters of our own bodies and mindsets. If you’re stressed, try doing a relaxing yoga sequence or reading a book before bed time. Also, there’s lots of teas and essential oils that can boost the quality of your slumber. Pharmaceutical sleep aids are chemical-laden, habit-forming disasters, so ye be warned.

There’s loads of great resources on yoga sequences and holistic approaches to staving off insomnia and poor sleep. It’s also advised to stay away from electronic devices, including your phone, computer and television, because the ‘blue light’ emitted by their screens emulate daylight and can mess up our circadian rhythms. When we’re lying in bed scrolling through instagram, we’re actually telling our brains its time to wake up. Which, of course, is confusing, considering we’re lying in bed trying to go to sleep.

Happy Dreaming!

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