“Sleep is important.”
Tell me how many times you’ve heard that phrase? There are so many reasons why sleep makes a difference and yet I know I at least walk around in a daze for at least part of most days because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. I can’t honestly tell you the last time I woke up and felt truly rested and refreshed (granted some of that probably has to do with the fact that I desperately need a new mattress).
I know it messes with my metabolism. When we don’t sleep enough, our bodies are stressed and release cortisol. It slows our metabolism but also prevents our bodies from metabolizing cabohydrates very well, so our blood sugar goes up even if we don’t change what we’re eating (although cortisol also tells our bodies that we’re hungrier than we actually are). And blood sugar up means more insulin floating around. So umm that insulin? That’s our bodies message to store unused calories as fat. Great, right?
Aside from that, there’s the obvious impact on clear thinking. I’ve made more poor decisions while sleep deprived – from poorly disciplining my children to what to eat to my job and more – than I have for any other reason I can think of. My brain simply doesn’t function well with not enough sleep, and caffeine is not an adequate substitute, though yes, it does help. Short term. Long term, that memory loss and poor decision making actually becomes permanent. Yikes!
But there’s also an impact on my fitness when I am cognizant that I’ve not gotten enough sleep. For one, I simply don’t feel like exercising. Yes, that’s part of my poor decision making, but I feel sluggish and generally don’t feel like getting out there and exercising – even though exercising does help me feel better. And so I’ll skip a workout.
If I do go workout, I have learned the hard way that I can’t go all out when I work out. If I’m doing an intense workout – running a Couch to 5K segment or doing hard core Zumba, I can’t do it all. I can’t run as far or as fast as I usually do. And my body doesn’t listen to what I’m trying to do in Zumba, and that’s if I don’t need to take a break because my body is physically exhausted. That frustrates me and depresses me when I can’t do what I want and expect to be able to do. And then I have a “reason” to not work out the next day, which starts a nasty vicious cycle.
And the worst part? All these negative impacts come from my own choices. I’m the one choosing to be awake until 11pm or after every night – and then wake up in the morning when my early bird children arise and need to be fed. I know my body needs eight hours and is happier with nine hours, yet I’m the one choosing not to listen and give it the rest it needs.
So tonight? Tonight I’m going to start on my baby steps. I’m going to do my best to start falling asleep at 10pm with a more realistic goal of 10:30. And I’ll try to slide that slightly earlier a few days at a time, just like I did when I was sleep training the wee ones and they got off on their schedules. Because I need my beauty sleep for far more reasons than just for beauty. We all do.