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  • Lisa Kelly

Four Part Sleep Series 1/4: Why is Sleep Important

So on top of working out, eating well and you know – every other responsibility in your life, you also want to make sure you sleep well. No big deal right?

I know it can be really overwhelming thinking about how to manage it all so this month I’m focusing on this one theme – Sleep.

It’s a big one and it’s usually the first thing to get pushed aside when our lives get busy, stressful or just a lot to take. This four part series on sleep will go over why it’s such a big part of your overall wellness, good sleep strategies, how to deal when sleep just isn’t your jam and real life tricks from those in the trenches with you!

To start this series, I want to dive into why sleep is so important. Most of us get the gist of it – you need sleep to feel rested and you know, to not die. Sleep is vital to us humans because good sleep is what protects our mental health, physical health, quality of life and our safety. Most of the way you feel while you’re awake depends in part of what happens while you sleep.

But, there’s quite a bit more to it than that and knowledge is power – so let’s frigging power you up!

Let’s look closer at how it protects our Mental Health While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day – it’s forming new pathways to help you learn, be creative and remember information. It is also working on strengthening your ability to pay attention and make decisions.

When you are not sleeping well or enough, you’ll notice that you have trouble making decisions – your kinda of foggy in your thinking. If your sleep sucks, you’ll feel out of whack emotionally and have trouble controlling emotions and behaviours – as well as coping with change. Think of a toddler throwing a tantrum....there's just no capacity to process our feelings and we are prone to act out more.

So in short...good sleep pretty much keeps us sane (or at least, most of the time!).

Let’s look at how it protects our Physical Health

When it comes to our physical health, pretty much everything in our body gets a tune up while we sleep. Besides repairing muscles, it is also involved in healing and repairing of your heart and blood vessels. Good sleep lowers your risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested - and more likely to reach for those oh-so-carb heavy treats to make us feel better!

Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you're sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections. Kind of a big thing these days!

How it protects quality of life and safety

Sleep protects your quality of life since it you get enough of it, it keeps you on your game. It helps you stay alert to finish tasks, be productive, have quicker reaction times and recognize mistakes more.

After several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night—your ability to function suffers as if you haven't slept at all for a day or two.

It protects our safety since good sleep means we are awake, alert and refreshed – keeps us safe driving and operating equipment. For example, sleep deficiency has played a role in human errors linked to tragic accidents, such as nuclear reactor meltdowns, grounding of large ships and aviation accidents – you know….big stuff!

Join me here on the blog next week for some strategies to improve your sleep!



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