If one of your 2015 resolutions was to lose weight and get healthier, you might find yourself imagining that you'll be making all sorts of sacrifices to your lifestyle.
So If you find yourself lamenting all the tough changes you'll need to make to reach your goals, consider doing something differently this year: instead of picking at all the little things you think need changing, simply make one sustainable change that will positively impact everything by giving you a solid base to work from.
Simply getting more solid sleep will vastly improve your health in so many way, including yoru weight. Image credit:DDRCCL/sxc.hu
Here's how sleep can help make real changes in improving your overall health.
Your stress levels drop.
When you're low on sleep, your body often thinks it's under stress. This means your brain will boost its cortisol levels (boosts your insulin). High cortisol levels can affect your overall health and weight, and interfere with your body's natural circadian rhythm to help you sleep well. It's a nasty cycle of bad sleep that can keep repeating.
Your days start out better.
It may seem really obvious but a good night's sleep means you wake up fully rested and can more easily establish a solid morning routine. You won't feel the need to hit snooze and worry about running late.
Stress free mornings = a better you.
Regulated blood sugar.
Since raised cortisol boosts your insulin and blood-sugar levels, you're more likely to crave (hence more likely to eat) sugar.
More sugar = more stored fat.
Sleep better influences your food choices and since you won't be tired so frequently, you're less likely to reach for coffee and sugary snacks to boost your energy.
Sleep helps maintain your blood sugar which means you'll reach for sugary afternoon sweets less often. Image credit:Philip Pena/sxc.hu
This too is a vicious cycle as high caffeine and sugar leads to a blood sugar drop that leaves you sleepier.
When we're tired, it can lead to bad food choices as it can be easier to reach for comfort foods like fried foods and heavy carbohydrates. Sadly, much of these comfort foods are rarely healthy choices.
Consistent bad food choices create long term health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure and weight gain.
Sleep can boost your mood.
If you find you're more irritable, moody and a bit depressed lately, you might want to consider your sleep patterns. Lack of sleep can have a big influence on not just your mood but also memory, focus and alertness.
If you're feeling moody or stressed, lack of sleep could be the issue. Image credit: Carl Dwyer/sxc.hu
Sleep slows aging.
When you're run down and your body has too much cortisol, your collagen starts to break down. Collagen is the protein that keeps your skin looking young and smooth. When you lose collagen, your skin becomes drier and you're prone to wrinkles and sallow skin. High levels of cortisol also slow down your body's ability to regenerate cells, negatively impacting muscle and bone health.
Sleep can motivate you.
When you're run down and exhausted, it's hard to stay motivated. Typically you'll end up on the sofa in front of the television instead of taking part in something more physically demanding. Getting a great night's sleep means you'll have the energy it takes to get to the gym or go for a walk or take the kids to the park.
Making this one simple change can have a huge improvement on your health overall. So if you only change one thing as part of your New Year's resolution, make sleep a priority. Everything else will seem much easier as a result.