Sleep and Your Health

I have a confession…I don’t get enough sleep. And not that I don’t get enough sleep, I don’t get even close to what I should. I know, shocking! You would think, given what I do, and what I know, that I would make this a priority. But it’s just not that easy. As a health professional, it’s not that I have it all figured out, or that I have mastered IMG_0203every part of my own health, it’s simply that I have found true healing in exploring the best way to take care of myself, and I want to share that freedom with others. As a result, I am the happiest I have ever been, but I am still on a journey, just like you.

So what’s my excuse? Well, in addition to my health coaching practice, I am also a personal trainer. This requires me to wake up very early. I have never been a morning person (ask my family). But when I made the switch to pursue a career that I was passionate about I had to sacrifice my love of sleeping in.

I remember the days when I could not even get to my desk job by 9am! It’s amazing what doing what you love for work will do to your work ethic and ambition! I have embraced my new schedule the best that I can. I really try not to complain about it, because I’m doing what I love. I get to hang out with really cool people, really early in the morning, and not only train their bodies, but hopefully, I also get to motivate and inspire them to live healthier lives in all respects.

So why is sleep so important anyway? Well, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says that “Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.”  It goes on to talk about sleep and are physical health. For example, sleep helps to repair your heart and blood vessels, it can also decrease your risk of obesity. Sleep can help balance your hormones, regulate the way your body reacts to insulin, and keep your immune system functioning properly.

Sleep deficiency in adults can cause problems with learning, focusing, and reacting. Problem-solving, memory, mood swings, coping, unexpected change, task completion, and controlling your emotions, are all common symptoms of sleep deficiency. People with pre-existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), could see an improvement in their symptoms with adequate sleep each night.

Unfortunately, if you are like me and you cannot get enough sleep, naps may seem like the answer. When I can, I squeeze a nap into my schedule. While this may help me feel better in the moment, you actually cannot make up for lost sleep. Even sleeping longer on the weekends may actually make your sleep deficiency worse! Why? You are disrupting your circadian rhythm and you may make it more difficult to fall asleep when you go back to your normal sleep schedule.

My health is very important to me and I do what I can in other respects to take the best care of my body. Sometimes, there are things that we cannot control. However, you can always find things you can do to improve your health that you can control!

With my clients, I always encourage choosing one goal from each of the three categories that we work on to improve health. First being food, second being fitness, and third being self care, which is where I would categorize sleep. If you can control the food that you put in your body, the movement that you give your body, and finding other ways to engage in self-care such as quality time with people you love or finding relaxing activities to soothe you, you can work on sleep when the time is right.

If falling asleep is the problem, try creating a bedtime routine. As children, we all had bedtime routines, but as we get older, we eventually get out of the habit of routine. If you start to create a new series of practices that prepare you mind for sleep, over time you will notice that you fall asleep much faster, and stay asleep!

Your routine can be as simple as washing your face, brushing your teeth, and laying down. Or, you can start an hour before you go to bed and begin to shut off electronic devices, dim the lights, put some lavender oil in your essential oil diffuser, maybe grab a book and lay down. Whatever you need to do to quiet your mind and start to shut off.

I’m curious, how much sleep do you need per night to feel your best? Do you have a bedtime routine? If so, what does it include?

Wishing you deep, soothing sleep and hours of counting sheep!

xoxo,

Elizabeth

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