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When you hear the phrase “healthy lifestyle,” you probably think of people who get plenty of exercise and eat well. And while those habits are certainly a key part of overall good health, there’s another factor that doesn’t always get as much attention as it should: Sleep.

The fact is, sleep is just as integral as movement and diet when it comes to maintaining good health and an overall healthy lifestyle. Without adequate amounts of good quality sleep, your overall health and well-being can suffer, and actually reduce the effectiveness, or even undo the benefits of your other healthy choices. Sleep is the foundation of a healthy life, and here are some reasons why. 

Sleep Helps You Maintain a Healthy Diet

Research indicates that poor sleep is one of the biggest risk factors for obesity, with short sleep duration linked to obesity in 89 percent of children and 55 percent of adults. Generally speaking, those who don’t get enough sleep tend to weigh significantly more than people who do get plenty of rest each night. Scientists believe there are several reasons for this, including:

  • Reduced sleep often equates reduced motivation to exercise.
  • A lack of sleep impacts your hunger hormones, causing you to have an increased appetite and reduced perception of feeling full, so you eat more.
  • Poor sleep reduces brain function in your frontal lobe, the part responsible for decision-making and self control, while also stimulating the reward centers in the brain. This increases cravings for “comfort foods” and food high in fat, carbohydrates, and calories, and reduces your ability to resist those cravings and make a better choice. 
  • Not getting enough sleep can lower your resting metabolism, causing you to burn fewer calories. 
  • Inadequate sleep increases insulin resistance, meaning that your blood sugar increases and your body produces excess insulin. This can cause your body to retain excess fat and make you hungrier.

Taken together, all of these factors contribute to weight gain. The bottom line is that sleep deprivation can change the way you eat, and the way your body processes food, thwarting your efforts to live a healthy lifestyle. 

Sleep Gives You Energy for Exercise

As mentioned previously, not getting enough sleep reduces motivation to exercise. After all, who wants to hit the gym when they barely have the energy to tie their sneakers? But exercise is a key aspect of a healthy lifestyle, not only helping with weight control, but influencing everything from mood to the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes

Research has found strong connections between sleep deprivation and exercise performance as well. For instance, a study of college basketball players found that those who got more sleep each night (in the 10 hour range) were faster, able to shoot more accurately, and has overall better mental well being than those players who got less sleep. Other research has found similar connections between sleep and athletic performance as well, concluding that sleep is not only vital for spurring people to exercise, but it helps increase the duration and effectiveness of physical activity as well. 

Sleep Helps You Avoid Getting Sick

While getting a cold or the flu isn’t generally life-threatening to the majority of people, it’s disruptive, keeping you from school, work, or other responsibilities and away from doing things that you enjoy. Not to mention, being sick just isn’t fund. Doctors say, though, that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including exercising, eating plenty of nutritious foods, and yes, getting enough sleep, can help you resist the viruses that cause colds and the flu.

In fact, research indicates that sleep deprivation can significantly reduce your immune function. In one study, researchers exposed people to germs from the common cold, and those who got fewer than eight hours of sleep per night were three times as likely to get sick as those who slept for eight hours or more. And it’s not just minor illnesses that are impacted by sleep deprivation. Inadequate sleep increases inflammation and cell in the body, increasing the risk of certain diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, and making it more difficult to keep chronic inflammatory diseases under control. 

These are just a few of the ways in which a healthy lifestyle is influenced by the amount of sleep you get. Given that sleep is also closely tied to your mental well-being, including your risk of depression, it’s easy to see that getting plenty of sleep needs to be a priority in your quest for healthy living. Without good quality sleep, your efforts in other areas won’t be as effective. Aim for at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and if you are having trouble sleeping, make changes to support this aspect of your healthy lifestyle. Improving your sleep hygiene, committing to an earlier bedtime and reduced use of devices, and talking with your doctor about your sleep concerns and issues can all go a long way toward helping you get good quality rest that’s vital to your health and well-being. 


Healthy Lifestyle


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