Sleep is a fundamental aspect of our wellbeing and a zero-cost superpower tool in optimizing our health. It is the time when our body and mind rejuvenate and repair, allowing us to function at our best. In modern culture, sleep is often overlooked and considered a luxury or a sign of being lazy. Many people sacrifice sleep to meet work or personal commitments, but the truth is that sleep is not negotiable. In fact I believe that finding adequate sleep can solve more problems than any other health “hack” there is. When it comes to starting or furthering our health journey, finding adequate sleep is at the very foundation.
We have so much new research coming in about the power of sleep with neuroscientists like Dr. Matthew Walker leading the way. These studies are showing improved cognitive function, better mood and mental health, reduced stress, and lower risk of chronic diseases. Not to mention how sleep plays a crucial role in regulating our hormones, metabolism, and immune system. Lack of sleep can impair our ability to concentrate, make decisions, and solve problems, making us prone to accidents and errors. Studies have shown that sleep-deprived individuals have lower cognitive performance, reduced reaction time, and impaired memory function.
Sleep also has a significant impact on our mood and emotional wellbeing. Lack of sleep can lead to irritability, anxiety, and depression, making it harder to manage stress and cope with daily challenges, sometimes straining or even risking relationships with those we love. As someone who has lived and coped with the struggles of mental health concerns, it is truly exhilarating to know that the simple yet incredibly powerful choice to sleep can dramatically improve all of these negative side effects. Optimizing sleep can enhance emotional regulation, making us more resilient to stressors and better able to take on our day, no matter what comes our way.
Sleep also plays a critical role in regulating our hormones and metabolism. Lack of sleep can disrupt the balance of hormones that regulate appetite, leading to overeating and weight gain. Chronic sleep deprivation has also been linked to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
A healthy immune system depends on our sleep quality. During sleep, our body produces cytokines, which are proteins that help fight infections and inflammation. These are also responsible for muscle recovery, helping us move our bodies and challenge ourselves the next day.
The power of sleep for health cannot be underestimated. Simply put, fix your sleep, fix your life. Obviously things get more complicated the deeper we go but sleep is at the core of workout recovery, hormone balancing, emotional regulation, metabolism and immune system function. If you are struggling with any of these concerns, you sleep quality and quantity might be a useful check-point.
Suggested listens and reading for deepening this conversation:
Book: Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker
Podcast: Sleep Toolkit-Tools for Optimizing Sleep and Sleep-Wake Timing Huberman Lab Podcast available on Youtube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts