This is the time of year when New Year’s Resolutions start falling by the wayside, but the reasons are often not what they seem. The body is a complex and interwoven tapestry of systems, which can sometimes mask root causes. People commonly overlook one crucial factor that underpins everything: sleep.
Unclear Thinking = Weak Impulse Control
The body needs a full night’s sleep on a consistent basis, although, contrary to popular belief, not everyone needs eight hours of sleep. A simple way to gauge your body’s need for rest: wake up naturally, without an alarm clock, every day for a week. You will fall into a rhythm after a few days and find yourself waking up automatically after a number of hours. This is a good starting point to estimate how long you should plan to rest each night.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to adversely affect all major areas of cognitive function, including memory and response time. Insufficient sleep hinders the ability to make clear decisions, and the resulting mental fog compromise’s our ability to feel confident about our choices. Wishy-washiness sets in, the temptation to procrastinate looms stronger, and resolve melts away.
Elevated Cortisol Levels Lead to Poor Metabolism
Sleep deprived adults experience frequent spikes in cortisol, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands. Cortisol plays a crucial role in regulating the sleep cycles. It also affects the way the body metabolizes carbohydrates, fats and other nutrients. Habitually running short on sleep tends to condition the body to retain fat. In other words, if you short-change your sleep, you’re undermining the benefits of your morning workout.
Sleep and Mental Health
A full night’s sleep is essential for mental health. Research has found that sleep-deprived patients are much more likely to experience clinical depression and anxiety. The factors contributing to this are many, but here is the bottom line: if you want to be productive and happy this year, the place to begin making changes is your sleep routine. Even before you change your diet or start a new exercise routine, take stock of your sleep. Are you getting the rest you need each night?
Resolve first to do what is necessary to create and protect your sleep. Treat your sleep as sacred! That might mean saying “no” more often or making the commitment to leave work at a reasonable hour. With a well-rested mind and body, you’ll have a renewed perspective that will awaken your creativity and allow you to see new solutions to problems that seemed impossible. You will feel greater confidence in your ability to tackle challenges. You will find more time and energy to work out, and your resistance to sugary snacks will grow stronger. Above all, you’ll laugh and smile more often!
Last but not least, talk to your doctor about the quality of your sleep. You might not be getting as much rest as you think, even if you don’t consider yourself a ”light sleeper.” Getting a full night’s rest is not simply a matter of going to bed early. It is important to consult a medical professional about the various factors that might be interfering with your sleep cycles and the options available.
The body has a miraculous ability to heal itself, if you give it the time and rest it needs. Sometimes, less is more. Instead of pushing your mind and body to work harder, make the commitment to give yourself the gift of a full night’s sleep this year.