Are you catching enough zzzzz’s?

The significance of sleep is often disregarded. It’s nothing new. Yet, most of us still have a difficult time achieving the recommended 7-8 hours per night. We know that it is important to get enough sleep, but why is it important? What does good sleep hygiene practically do for us?
When we get 7-8 uninterrupted hours of sleep each night, our bodies not only feel energized and strong throughout the day, but our brains also function more clearly, our comprehension and memory skills are sharper and our hormones are balanced. Additionally, adequate sleep can help improve skin tone and quality, immunity, productivity, stress response and tolerance and mood. It also helps slow the aging process and prevent premature wrinkles.
And that’s not all! I work with many of my clients to help them improve their sleep hygiene, even if that means a short nap in the middle of the day. The reasons I prioritize this as part of our nutrition sessions include the fact that weight loss and maintenance are simply easier to achieve due to the natural boost in metabolism they experience with adequate sleep. Additionally, it is easier to make a healthy food choice when they feel rested and alert. More energy during exercise (higher calorie burn, perhaps?), efficient muscle repair, strong muscles and bone tissue and smooth digestion are just more benefits of good sleep hygiene. The reason they experience these benefits of good sleep is largely because of the change in hormone balance. Adequate sleep is responsible for helping to regulate our circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle), sex hormones (estrogen, testosterone, etc.), reproductive hormones, hunger hormones and other hormones in your gut that are responsible for smooth digestion and absorption of nutrients. A chronic lack of sleep can leave you with low energy, a low sex drive, fertility issues (these can occur with longer, more severe sleep issues), digestive discomfort, increased hunger and cravings. And what’s worse for your body weight and health than constant cravings and low energy? If you feel dragged down and sleepy, you will be less likely to make good food and exercise choices. And a lifestyle of poor choices will only contribute to weight gain and chronic health issues down the road. So, consider sleep an instant energizer AND a long-term investment in your health. Good sleep today will improve your body’s strength, immunity and resilience tomorrow.
      – Lauren Minchen, MPH, RDN, CDN