Last week we talked about sleep quality, but sleep quantity is equally important. Sleep is not always a high priority in our lives and because we have been surviving on little amounts of sleep per night we tend to believe it is sufficient. Even though we may have gotten used to a certain amount of sleep, it does not mean it is truly enough for our minds and bodies. In reality, the average adult needs between seven and eight hours a night.
The recommended seven to eight hours of sleep is to give the average adult body and brain enough time for physical and mental rest and recovery. Although we think we are at peace when sleeping, our body is working hard to recover and remove any waste from the cells. Brain recovery during sleep is very important; spinal fluid cleans out the wastes from our brain cells and refreshes us for the next day. Our blood pressure lowers and our heart rate decreases when we are at rest, giving our body time without stress to the organs. Failing to sleep for the optimal amount of time that our body needs will lead to higher blood pressure and resting heart rate, leading to a state of exhaustion in our bodies.
This state of exhaustion and lack of sleep can lead to increased hunger levels and decreased physical and mental motivation, which can then lead to unwanted weight gain. The increase in hunger is a result of a hormone imbalance and the perceived need for more energy to survive. One hormone, ghrelin, increases with a lack of sleep, cueing hunger sensations that lead to overeating. Another hormone, leptin, decreases with lack of sleep. This diminishes our sense of satiety, which leads to overeating. This hormonal imbalance happens because our body is seeking energy through food to make up for the lost rest and recovery.
As the body experiences exhaustion and fatigue, it is unable to effectively release insulin which controls our blood sugar. Without proper insulin secretion, blood sugar levels increase and can lead to weight gain and metabolic disorders.
Contrary to popular belief that only the kitchen and gym make us healthy, proper sleep must also be included. It is true there are only so many hours in a day, but make sure eight of those hours are sleeping! If we believe our bodies can do amazing things on little rest, think about what they can do if we maximize our sleep time.
Key Word: Sleep