It’s commonly accepted that diet and exercise are crucial components of a healthy lifestyle. While we may each have different ideas about what a “healthy” diet consists of, exactly, or just how rigorous our exercise routine should be, we generally understand that our bodies benefit from proper nutrition and physical activity. But what about sleep? How could lying there, doing nothing, actually do something huge for our health?
Increasingly, researchers are recognizing that sleep plays a very important role in our health; so much so, in fact, that it’s looking like sleep should be considered just as important as diet and exercise. Could it be that that the time has come for a paradigm shift? That we, as a society, need to move away from the notion that sleep is optional – that cramming the most into our lives, 24/7, is the path to success – and that being chronically sleep-deprived and requiring copious amounts of caffeine or energy drinks to keep our eyes open is normal?
In fact, studies are showing that sleep has a very concrete impact on our health. Research has shown that people who maintain a consistent sleep routine have a lower percentage of body fat than those who sleep irregular hours, and a body of research developed over the last few years ties quality and quantity of sleep to weight loss and better weight control.
At this point, researchers don’t know exactly how sleep schedules affect body mass and fat, but they do know that studies have shown that sleep affects physical activity, appetite, and hormones that control our metabolism and help signal satiety to prevent over-eating.
The bottom line is that diet, exercise, and sleep are undeniably intertwined; each one impacts and is affected by the other two, and together, they shape our health.
But here’s the truly crazy thing: we continue to put sleep on the back-burner and focus instead on the really difficult changes – eating right and moving more. Sleep is comparatively very easy, don’t ya think? We do. J
So… just stop. Breathe. Lie down. Turn off. Tune out. Give your body what it needs… sleep!