True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. ~Sir William Penn
There are countless articles out there about the importance of sleep. During sleep your body has a chance to regroup and heal. Your mind and body are refreshed and ready to face the day. I am sure everyone has experienced a time when they were sleep deprived. Concentration and focus were off. Maybe you became clumsy. Mood changed and you become irritable and displayed less patience. Overall, poor or lack of sleep impacts a person greatly.
Somehow, this is often one of the first things to get sacrificed and it really shouldn’t be. Maybe you find yourself staying up extra late to do some things for work? Consider how important that item is compared to your health and well-being? If it were to be put off another day, would the world end? Would it increase your workload? Not to mention, working so close to sleeping time makes it difficult to settle your mind and get a good sleep.
Now a little science. Part of our nervous system is designed for something called fight-or-flight. Back in our ancestor’s days this meant survival. When exposed to stressors, like an animal attack, our body would react. Heart rate would increase, muscles would prepare themselves to fight off the danger or flee from it, we might begin to sweat, and our breath would shorten. All this energy meant that our bodies would be prepared to deal with the situation at hand. This is a pretty amazing thing, right? What that also meant, though, is that our body was more susceptible to illness because the body was so busy in survival mode that all its energy was directed there. Luckily, once the threat disappeared, the body’s parasympathetic nervous system would kick in to slow down breathing and heart rate and return the body to normal functioning.
Today it is rare that you would need to fight off a tiger, for example. Believe it or not, our modern lifestyles are actually more dangerous. Inactivity and stressors run ramped. If you are constantly getting sick, chances are you are constantly in a state of stress where your body is using some form of the fight-or-flight response. With all the busy schedules people have their stress levels are constantly up and make them susceptible to illness. The lack of time they have for sleep and rest is more and more common which is why sleep is so vital.
If you are trying to lose weight, you might be struggling because of this as well. If you don’t have the energy to prepare healthy meals or get out and exercise, it is one more barrier you have to deal with. Your body is too busy fighting to worry about functioning properly. If your body is not balanced and in a good state, all your effort might be going to waste. Losing weight is the last thing your body cares about. As a matter of fact, it might be fighting you to hold on to how things are (resisting changes you are trying to make). Do you like changes when things are already chaotic in your life? Your body doesn’t either.
Sleep is an obvious solution but here are a few other things that you can do to try and help your parasympathetic nervous system along as well. These are a few of my favourites. Remember, small steps until they because habits as I mentioned in Weightloss: Introduction.
Take a few minutes to just enjoy your day (tea? a book? hot bath?)
Walk out in nature
Lying down or sitting with relaxing music
Take breaks, you are not a work horse
If you didn’t value sleep before, consider that it helps your nervous system so it can focus on fighting illness rather than imaginary tigers and devote time at night to sleep and time during the day to destress so your body can rest. Don’t get caught up in things right before bed and spend a little time for you each day. No more excuses that you don’t have time. Make it.