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why sleep is important

Why Sleep is More Important Than You Think

We all know sleep is important, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I got into the nitty gritty of why. I know that when I don’t sleep enough, I’m irritable, it’s difficult to focus, and it’s much easier to fall into a negative outlook. I think I’m not alone there. But, there’s tons of stuff that goes on in our bodies when we don’t get enough sleep that make it harder for us to stay healthy and feel good.

Our Hormones Go Out of Wack

There are these two great hormones, grehlin and leptin, that regulate our appetite.  Grehlin tells us that we are hungry, while leptin signals that we’re full and controls satiety. When we don’t sleep enough, our grehlin levels elevate and leptin levels are reduced, making it harder for us to feel full and satisfied. One doctor I heard speak recently said that one night of sleep deprivation is the equivalent of ingesting an extra 540 calories. Talk about setting yourself up to fail!

We Go Into Fight or Flight

When we don’t get enough sleep, the part of our brains responsible for our rational and thoughtful behavior decreases it’s activity. This part our brain, the prefrontal cortex, also plays a major role in decision making and self-control.

And, to top it off, the amydala becomes more active when we don’t get enough sleep. I like to think of the amydala as a very primal part of the brain. The amydala detects threats (real or imaginary) and signals the fight or flight responses we are all so familiar with. We tense up, our heart rate increases… we’re stressed out. When we’re in this mindset we don’t make good decisions, and our bodies (especially digestion) don’t perform well.

So what’s the big deal? Being mindful about what and how we eat plays a huge part in our health, from food sensitivities to weight loss. When we don’t get enough sleep, the part of our mind that helps us regulate our behaviors gets short changed while the part of us that is more primal and reactive gets activated. You are literally setting your mind up to fail at whatever health goals you’ve set when you don’t get enough sleep.

You’re Tired

Maybe least scientific of them all, but still super important, is the fact that when you don’t sleep enough, you’re tired! Being tired makes everything more challenging, including getting to the grocery store, exercising (even if it’s just a walk around the block) and cooking. Who wants to cook when they haven’t had enough sleep? Sounds like nap time to me!

What do you think? Will you aim for some extra zzz’s tonight?


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