If you’re like most of us, your New Year’s Resolutions probably have something to do with losing weight, eating better and just generally being a better human. Maybe even a combination of all three.
There are lots of ways to go about achieving these goals: You can join a gym, find a running buddy, subscribe to a meal kit plan, and the list goes on. Yet year after year we find ourselves ditching our resolutions and returning to our old ways. And while there’s no bulletproof way to ensure that our new, better habits stick, there is something we can do to give ourselves an advantage: go to sleep.
Seriously. Research is beginning to suggest that sleep may be the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Some studies go so far as to say that sleep is as crucial to overall well-being as nutrition and exercise.
So we’re going to break this down using three common resolutions and explain how sleep plays into each one.
Sleep has all sorts of incredible effects on the body, and contributes to overall health in ways you might not expect. If you’re trying to slim down, getting seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night should be the first step in your weight loss plan.
Getting enough sleep gives you the energy to exercise, but it can also help you keep your appetite in check. While sleep deprivation can cause outsized hunger, sufficient shut-eye can help you create better eating habits. When you sleep, your brain produces a chemical called leptin that helps you feel satisfied when you eat; so, sleep better, eat better.
Resolution 2: Eat Better/Be Healthier
Plenty of sleep can help you shut down those pesky junk food cravings, leading to healthier choices during your waking hours. You’ll find it easier to say ‘no’ to high-fat and high-carb foods.
What’s more, feeling well-rested can make you more likely to get in the kitchen and prepare yourself a healthy, tasty meal. Tiredness leads to scarfing down something quick and greasy, which drains your energy and perpetuates the cycle.
Sick and tired of being sick and tired? Sleep also strengthens your immune system. Studies show that the well-rested among us have fewer cases of the flu, the common cold and other viruses, and sufficient sleep can reduce chances of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other serious medical conditions.
Resolution 3: Be a Better You
If your resolution is to spend more time improving your mental well-being, tacking on a couple of hours of sleep each night might help. We know that we feel happy when we’re well-rested and grumpy when we’re not, but lack of sleep causes more damage than surface-level tiredness.
Adequate sleep can help you curb stress, depression and anxiety. People who get fewer than six hours of sleep each night are significantly more prone to these conditions, so take a snooze for your mental well-being.
Sleep helps us regulate our moods and emotions, so it’s no wonder than too little shut-eye makes another episode of Planet Earth (Okay let’s be honest, South Park) sound much better than a good book or a leisurely walk.
It’s also very important to your brain function; Sleep significantly improves attention span and information retention. If you want to achieve more at work, think more clearly at school or finish out that crossword puzzle, you need to catch plenty of zzz’s for maximum cranium performance.
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