Researchers have known for some time that sleep is essential for weight maintenance and hormone balance. Recently, the research on sleep has been overwhelming, with mounting evidence that it plays a role in nearly every aspect of health.
While diet and exercise have been a part of public health messaging for decades, doctors and health advocates are now beginning to argue that getting quality sleep may be just as important for overall health.
“Sleep is probably easier to change than diet or exercise,” says Dr. Michael Grandner, a sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. “It may also give you more of an immediate reward if it helps you get through your day.”
According to a study done by SleepFoundation.org, when our brains are overtired they can prompt us to eat more. Some hormones that regulate metabolism and appetite aren’t even able to work properly if you have not gotten enough rest.
Sleep experts claim that it is one of the top three, and sometimes the most, important lifestyle adjustments one can make, in addition to diet and exercise. And while there’s more evidence linking diet and exercise as influential health factors, sleep is probably more important in terms of brain and hormonal function, Grandner says. “Among a small group of [sleep researchers], it’s always been said that [eating, exercise, and sleep] are the three pillars of health,” says Grander.
When it comes to adequate sleep, it’s much more personalized than previously thought. Some people feel great on five hours of rest, while others need ten. The best way to determine if you’re getting the right amount, doctors say, is to find out how many hours of sleep you need to be able to wake up without an alarm and feel rested, refreshed, and energetic throughout the day.
But to many of us, sleep is easily sacrificed, especially since lack of it isn’t seen as life threatening. However, now that you are aware of some of the consequences that sleep deprivation can have, start nourishing your body and give it the rest it deserves!