And the crazy awesome health benefits of a good night’s sleep!
When it comes to how long you’re going to live, there’s a lot of truth in the saying that genetics is a loaded gun – but there’s no denying that lifestyle choices are BIG triggers. We all carry genes for a multitude of diseases, but whether we get them or not is largely dependent on how we live our lives. Diet, exercise AND sleep are the three pillars of a healthy, long life and if they’re out of balance, the results can be devastating.
Our bodies need sleep to recover from the wear and tear of daily life while our brains rely on sleep to sort and store memories and problem solve. Under the cover of sleep, our veins are flooded with age-defying human growth hormones while an army T cells are raised and sent into battle to fight against colds and infection. What’s more, sleep lowers the risk of just about every scary health issue as we age.
What happens when you skimp on sleep and build up a sleep debt? In short, the price you pay for a sleep deficit is more than just lost productivity. Don’t you think it’s time to wake up and learn why sleep is so important?
The good news is that if you’re on this side of the grass, you have time to change. Ready to kick bad health habits to the curb and start living healthier?
1. Get a better night’s sleep. No surprise sleep tops our live-longer-list. Sleep heals your body from the abuse of the day, fuels it up to tackle the next day and fortifies your organs to fight against future stress and disease. When getting enough sleep isn’t a priority, everything suffers. We’re more prone to accidents (slower reaction times), we’re easily stressed (lack of hormone regulation) and long-term illnesses have an opportunity to blossom.
2. Eat breakfast. A healthy breakfast encourages your body to expend calories – without hording them in case of an emergency. “Breakfast is critical since you’re coming off an overnight fast and your glycogen stores in the liver are depleted,” says Dr. Barry Sears, a leading authority in anti-inflammatory nutrition, author of the Zone Diet book series and president of the non-profit, Inflammation Research Foundation. “Protein is critical to producing satiety at breakfast so that you don’t overeat at lunch or at mid-morning.
3. Curb alcohol consumption. “It wasn’t that long ago that physicians recommended “nightcaps” for insomniacs or others experiencing sleep problems,” says Dr. Rosenberg, founder, and CEO of NeuroTrials Research in Atlanta. “But using alcohol for sleep is a bad idea.” It alters the quality of your sleep. Even if you sleep a full night after drinking, you may not feel rested in the morning. Alcohol lightens sleep and suppresses that so important REM sleep (where all the heavy lifting of healing begins). Booze will also disrupt the total time you are asleep. You may wake up frequently and have problems falling back asleep as the alcohol works through your system. Those with sleep apnea should be aware that alcohol worsens the condition.
4. Enjoy a rainbow diet. The color of your food choices is as important as cutting out sugary and salty snacks. When you eat all the colors of the rainbow, you add in disease-fighting nutrients and vitamins into your body. While we’re at it, adopting a vegetarian or flexitarian (mostly meat-free) can also help you avoid disease as you age.
5. Walk 10,000 steps a day. In 2001, the US Surgeon General launched the 10,000 Steps Program – an ambitious goal to help a mostly sedentary nation shape up. It might feel overwhelming to consider walking 1 ½ hours daily but countless studies to point to the fact that we need to move our bodies to stay healthy. According to LiveScience, “Past research has shown that walking more can decrease the risk of becoming overweight and obese and developing insulin resistance, reducing your overall diabetes risk.”
6. Leave work at work. Long term stress is like a slow gas leak in your home. While you’re obliviously living your life upstairs, the basement is filling up with explosive gas – and it only takes a spark to blow the whole thing to smithereens. You may think you’re coping with stress just fine – that kink in your shoulder notwithstanding – but what you don’t see, can kill you. There’s no one answer that will work for everyone but a few tweaks to your schedule may help you reduce stress and live longer.
7. Be more social. Good friends are good for you but we’re not talking about Facebook. Study after study shows that healthy face-to-face relationships can boost self-esteem and ward off depression. New studies show friendship can actually help us sidestep cancer, slow aggressive cancer growth and improve effectiveness of chemotherapy. Heart attack survivors with a healthy support system live longer, richer lives compared to those who lead isolated lives.
8. Invest in lifelong learning. Your longer life might actually have more to do with self-determination than formal education. People who make learning part of their daily lives as they age feel more in control of what happens to them because they actively seek out information to help them make smarter choices. “A high sense of control all but wipes out educational differences when it comes to mortality. A person with less education but a high sense of control is practically indistinguishable from a person of high education,” says Margie Lachman on ConciousLifeNews.com.
9. Walk on the sunny side of the street. Bad things happen to everyone but how we perceive those “bad” things can extend or shorten our lives. “You know you feel better when your attitude is focused on optimism and gratitude. Now research confirms that a feeling of gratitude may not only increase your quality of life by making you smarter, healthier, and more energetic but may optimism may also help you live longer,” according to OptimumWellness. Start a gratitude journal – one happy thought per day is all you need to help you polish up your rose-colored glasses.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts: