Sleep. Is there anything more important? I’m quickly, well maybe slowly, discovering that I actually think sleep is the most important ingredient to overall wellbeing… or an equal first with breathing & meditation. Yes, more important that food & exercise.
During our sleep our bodies rest, repair & rejuvenate. Quality, restful sleep results in increased memory & cognitive function, improved immunity & digestive function, enhanced physical & emotional resilience, better mood & hormone function. Literally everything improves with restorative sleep.
When we don’t sleep well it impacts many aspects of life. From my own experience and working with clients some common side effects of not getting enough good quality sleep are – low tolerance levels, higher stress levels, poor food choices & longer recovery after workouts (particularly high intensity cardio or weights) or skipping workouts due to lack of energy all which also often leads to lower self-esteem. And hence, particularly in the early stages of a reset, sleep is of equal or greater importance to food & exercise because it has such a huge impact on the choices we make in these areas of our life.
Stress is another interesting one – it’s a chicken & egg situation. Stress increases our cortisol & other hormones which negatively impact our body’s ability to wind down & rest, therefore leading to lower quality sleep, which leads to irritability & low resilience causing greater stress, and so the cycle goes.
So how much do we really need? Research suggests a range of guidelines & everyone is different, but the recommendation is approximately 7-9 hours per night. Arianna Huffington has a new book on sleep – The Sleep Revolution – she suggests starting with 30 minutes extra per night. I think this is a great way to be realistic – if you’re getting 5 hours now it’s going to be a challenge to go straight to 8, but if you get an extra half an hour, the improvements will hopefully inspire you to keep adding slowly to your sleep bank. Creating a night time routine is a great way to increase the amount & improve the quality of sleep. A healthy night routine involves eating at least 2 hours before bed, limited technology & no technology 1 hour before bed, dimming the lights or just using lamps or candles & breathing or meditation.
I’m committing to 8 hours every single night this week even if that means skipping an early morning workout. Could you change just one thing this week to help improve your sleep & see how it impacts other areas of your life?