This year, I’m launching a campaign called #HealthyHabits2019, with weekly newsletters featuring practical health tips following each of the five pillars of health. Click here to sign up, if you haven’t already. (It’s free!)
The first few months of the year, we’re focusing on sleep habits, and I wanted to share a little bit about why sleep is so important. We’ve all experienced nights of poor sleep (whether due to changing schedules, travel, insomnia, or interruptions) and they feel awful. But poor sleep patterns that accumulate over time (weeks, months, or years) can have dramatically negative effects on our health. We may not notice them as readily as if we stay up until the wee hours of the morning, but we definitely will come to notice them over time; sleep deprivation can trigger chronic symptoms. These include:
- Weight gain and increased hunger
- Anxiety and depression
- Poor blood sugar control
- Elevated blood pressure
- Decreased libido
- Heightened sensations of pain
- Getting sick more often and for longer
- Loss of bone and muscle mass
- …and more!
These effects are due to changes in cortisol, the stress hormone. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies change the patterns of cortisol release, which in turn affects countless other hormones in our bodies. (To learn more about how cortisol affects the body, read this post about stress and weight gain.)
If it sounds like I’m saying that poor quality (or quantity) of sleep can lead to problems like diabetes, heart disease, and dementia, I am. The physiologic fallout from sleep deprivation sets us up for all kinds of chronic diseases, which account for many of the 10 leading cause of death.
Taking care of ourselves is really, really important, and sleep is a big part of doing so!