Everyone loves a great night’s sleep! Getting enough shut-eye allows the body and mind to heal and recover. Quality sleep is truly essential, but not as common as you may think.
Today’s hectic lifestyles are less restful than ever. Long hours at work, 24/7 access to technology, and skyrocketing stress and anxiety levels all contribute to difficulty sleeping. Upwards of 35% of Americans do not get sufficient sleep on a nightly basis. What many do not know is that their happiness and healthiness are being compromised.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep? New research has shown that getting less than 6-8 hours of sleep per night can put you at higher risk for heart disease and other metabolic diseases like obesity.
Not only is your heart at risk, but your blood sugar, as well. The body’s reaction to lack of sleep can mimic insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs due to the cell’s inability to utilize insulin. This results in high blood sugar. Imagine if your blood sugar was spiking every single night simply because you were having trouble sleeping… yikes!
If you aren’t getting those quality ZZZ’s, you may find yourself not only feeling tired, but feeling sad as well. Research has found that insufficient sleep can negatively affect one’s ability to feel happy. At its worst, chronic lack of sleep over time is a risk factor for depression.
Immunity is also compromised without enough sleep. Ever heard the phrase “sick and tired?” People are more likely to catch the common cold when they are behind on their rest. Not only is being sick an inconvenience, but as the body’s immune system is compromised, there also comes an increased vulnerability to more severe infections, diseases, etc.
Losing sleep can also affect your weight. Lack of sleep may be related to increased hunger, appetite, and even obesity. People who experience difficulty sleeping may also be less likely to exercise and engage in physical activity, and therefore may have more difficulty maintaining a healthy weight.
When you’re tired, you’re hungry! Lack of sleep appears to not only stimulate appetite in general, it also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. This is because the body is looking for quick energy to give it fuel to keep going.
For diabetics, an increase in appetite, especially for high-carbohydrate foods, makes healthy eating and blood sugar management more challenging. Eating healthful foods in proper portions throughout the day will keep energy levels and blood sugar more stable.
Speaking of eating, there are several foods that can help you fall asleep without raising your blood sugar. Some may sound familiar, while others may surprise you.
You’ve probably heard that turkey makes you tired. The myth that it’s the Thanksgiving bird that brings on the epic post-gorge nap on the couch with football on the TV in the background. As it turns out, there’s truth to that! Tryptophan is an amino acid found in turkey that is used by your body to make serotonin and melatonin, the hormones responsible for sleep!
It may sound strange, but chickpeas/garbanzo beans are another fantastic food for encouraging sleep. They contain a ton of vitamin B6. This vitamin raises your body’s level of serotonin. If a handful of chickpeas before bed isn’t your thing, (totally understandable), try dipping a few slices of zucchini or cucumber in this creamy hummus for a satisfying snack.
Yearning for something sweet? Some fruits lend themselves especially well to sleep. Cherries are naturally high in melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleeping and waking. Bananas are high in potassium and magnesium, which act as natural muscle relaxers. So how can we combine these two for a sleepy, sweet treat? Blend frozen cherries and half a frozen banana with a splash of milk (full-fat, coconut, or almond.) It’s cool and delicious, not too sweet, and can help you sleep!
So there you have it. Taking care of ourselves is paramount to living the lives we love. Sleep is crucial to achieving our best overall health… and happiness. Time for bed!