If you’re like most people, you know that solid nutrition and regular exercise are vital to your health.
But here’s something you may be overlooking: there are three pillars of health — not two.
Nutrition, movement and rest are the three most important drivers of your mental and physical health — and your sleep quality impacts your physical and mental health just as much as food and movement do.
What’s more, a solid diet and exercise routine can’t and don’t make up for a lack of sleep. So even if you’re 100% keto and a professional bodybuilder… without adequate sleep, your health will suffer.
Have you been known to try to make up for a lack of sleep with clean eating and rigorous gym sessions?
Let’s explore the physical and mental benefits that only sleep can bring you — even if your diet and gym plan are on point.
Why Sleep Is Critical to Your Mental Health
When you don't give your body enough energy through healthy sleep, your brain suffers — leading to stress, mood issues, concentration problems and more.
In the early 2000s, scientists were able to identify a definitive link between sleep deprivation and brain health. They found that a lack of quality or quantity of sleep leads to increased brain inflammation, resulting in impaired concentration, poor productivity and slower cognition. Even worse, as little as a week of mild sleep deprivation inhibits your ability to learn and remember.
Inadequate sleep can also take a toll on your judgment and perception. You’ve experienced these effects if a late night out has ever robbed you of your productivity at the office the next day.
And unfortunately, the effects get worse over time. Left uncorrected, sleep deprivation will likely leave you feeling drained, depressed and unable to fight daily stress and anxiety — even if your nutrition and exercise habits are dialled in.
Why Sleep Is Critical to Your Physical Health
Sleeplessness has a wide range of physical consequences, no matter how clean your diet or how often you exercise.
A large body of research indicates that sleep deprivation disrupts your hormones — many of which directly influence your appetite (and, by extension, the number of calories you consume throughout the day).
Your body lacks energy when you don’t sleep well — so it prompts you to eat more often and in larger quantities than it would if you were well-rested. As a result, you’re more likely to end up eating a couple of bags of chips and a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting, on a regular basis… and endure the negative health consequences of those foods.
Furthermore, a lack of sleep is bad for your heart. Because sleep helps your body regulate your blood pressure and circulation,sleep deprivation can increase your chances of developing high blood pressure.
If all of the above isn’t enough, another consequence of insufficient sleep is slowly losing your sense of balance and coordination, both of which can increase your susceptibility to physical accidents and falls.
In short, sleep deprivation is terrible for your mental and physical health — even if you otherwise take great care of yourself.
Ready to Prioritize Your Sleep?
If you’re ready to bump sleep up your priority list, you’ve made a wise choice.
Sleep deserves to be prioritized just as much as diet and exercise do — if not more so, given that sleep impacts your health and your ability to exercise and eat well.
So, what one small thing can you commit to doing tonight to improve your sleep?
(1) Konen, T et al.“Cognitive benefits of last night's sleep: daily variations in children's sleep behavior are related to working memory fluctuations." journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 23 Jul. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25052368/%EF%BB%BF
(2) Markwald, Rachel et al. “Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2 Apr. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619301/
(3) “How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/features/sleep-heart-health/index.html/. Accessed 6 Jan. 2020.
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