Although the why and how is not completely clear to scientists yet, sleep certainly activates well-being.
What do you notice when you get enough sleep? When you are sleep deprived?
When not sleeping well, I notice more cravings for simple sugars, my short term memory and focus are reduced, I am more likely to stress about something small, and exercise does not feel as enjoyable or satisfying.
Motivation to move tanks when sleep quality is low, not only because of the physical fatigue, but also because sleep deprivation puts the mind and body in a stress response. And we know what that means – smart brain goes offline and healing is on hold. Working on sleep issues is the first goal before setting any other healthy lifestyle goals. Setting big goals while sleep deprived is like trying to climb Mt Everest without any provisions.
Without the recharge time during sleep, the brain looks elsewhere for energy and comfort. Cravings for quick energy foods increase. Since the smart brain is taken over by the emergency part of the brain, intentions to eat healthy and stick to an exercise plan are not the priority. Finding energy and comfort in a quick and easy way becomes the brain’s focus.
The great news is that there are many natural strategies that are shown to help. Movement is among the most effective. Because stress prepares the body for movement, exercise is the perfect antidote. Movement that relaxes the body before sleep, like gentle stretches, sends signals to the brain that it is okay to relax.
Below are more science-based sleep resources. Not every strategy is right for everyone, but each are worth a try to find what works for you if lack of sleep is keeping your well-being on hold.
- Check out this article on sleep on The Connection blog, which also contains links to other blogs on the science and importance of sleep and how to get a good night’s sleep.
- “Sleep your way to the top,” says Arianna Huffington says in her TED talk . Yes, she means actually sleep!
- Here is a list of sleep hygiene recommendations.
May You Be Well,
Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC
Clinical Exercise Physiologist
Health and Wellness Coach
Yoga and Meditation Teacher