Believe it or not, there’s more to life than food and exercise. We are complex human beings and although what we eat and how much we move can have a huge impact on our health, there is more to the picture. There are several other factors we need to look at if we want to have success in our 21-day Primal challenge and the rest of our wellness journey.
Although I am talking about sleep at the end of the week, that doesn’t mean it’s less important that how you eat. Sleep actually ranks right up there on the same level as nutrition as far as its effect on health and body composition. For some silly reason, people find pride in stating that they can function on just a few hours of sleep per night–like they are some sort of superhero. But let me clear things up—you are designed to get a lot of sleep and without enough sleep, your health declines really quickly.
Actually, you can google “sleep +cancer” or really “sleep + any disease” and find lots of reasons to just stop reading and go to bed.
Low quality and low quantity of sleep can really hurt us:
- Reduces our ability to tolerate carbs and burn fat, and making it harder to lose weight. It can even cause weight gain. But this stems from decreased insulin sensitivity.
- Increased blood pressure
- Secretion of 2 important hormones occur at night during sleep: testosterone and growth hormone. Testosterone supports general health and Human Growth Hormone supports fat metabolism and recovery.
- Increased risk for depression
- Performance during exercise declines
- Lowered immune function—get sick more often
Benefits of a good sleep pattern: (just to name a few)
- Fat is used for fuel more effectively, helping you get rid of those love handles and such.
- Exercise performance is enhanced and speed and strength increases
- Your immune system works the most when you are asleep, so when you sleep well, your defense system does a better job of fending off viruses
- Memory and problem solving improve because your brain functions better on better sleep
Sleep is worth more than you thought, huh? I challenge you to figure out how to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night for at least 2 weeks and make it happen. I promise you’ll feel better, look better, and perform better! And if you add that onto a great diet and exercise program you’ll be a whole new person!
Tips for better sleep:
- Avoid caffeine, especially after noon
- Avoid sugar (which you should anyway)
- Turn off the TV/computer/phone at least an hour before bed
- Get into a good night time routine when you wind down and prepare your body for sleep.
- Seperate bedrooms: if your partner is restless or snores, it may be better for you to sleep in another room (even if your partner is a dog).
- Make sure where you sleep is dark-no smoke detector lights, alarm clock lights, or night lights. Your skin has light detectors and light can disrupt your sleep.
The modern stressors of today include things like commutes in traffic, working overtime for weeks at a time, financial problems, relationship trouble, even the food we eat. All of this stress is chronic, meaning it doesn’t happen and go away in a matter of minutes. This stress is affecting us for hours each day. Our bodies were not designed to handle that load of stress without negative consequences. To our bodies, being stuck in rush hour is the same as a life-or-death situation (being chased by a bear). It triggers the same response: increased heart rate, adrenaline rush, heightened senses, and sweaty palms. That response was designed to save our lives in an actual life-or-death situation. But when that stress is extended over time, it reflects negatively on our health. Try your best to get rid of all unnecessary stress.
Here’s another controversial topic. Now we have been told that we are to avoid sun exposure for fear of developing skin cancer. We have been told that we should wear sunscreen at all times to minimize risk.
But in reality, a good dose of sunshine can be a great boost to your health and in fact is an important factor in almost every bodily function because it reacts with cholesterol in your skin to create vitamin D. And, it’s actually not a vitamin, it’s better described as a hormone.
Here’s what a daily dose of sunshine/Vitamin D will do for you:
- Essential in bone mineralization—your body cannot do anything with calcium and magnesium unless you have Vitamin D
- Increase fat loss
- Required for the production of testosterone
- Prevents tooth decay
- Essential in immune function
- Reduces inflammation
- Plays a role in cancer prevention
You only need 20-30 minutes each day. Go outside, take off as many clothes as you can, don’t wear sunscreen, and relax. If you’re going to be out for longer than that, apply your sunscreen after the initial 20-30 minutes. (If you haven’t had much sun exposure recently, take your time building up to it. Increase your time by a minute or 2 at a time. Don’t get burned!)
And if daily sun exposure is not an option (like certain seasons or climates) take a vitamin D3 supplement.
So, take a look back through this list and make sure you are getting all the components of a healthy lifestyle in check. They all work together to make you as healthy as you can be. Don’t ignore these last few things!
If you’re not sleeping enough, nutrition can’t make up for it. If you’re not eating right, you can’t exercise enough. And food won’t help your stress.
Hope you’re excited about Monday and our first day of the 21-day challenge! Use this weekend to prepare: clean out your kitchen, stock up on essential groceries, and plan your meals!
Now, go get some sunshine, sleep, and relax 🙂
Best of health,