Guest Post: The Beauty of Sleep

A few years ago, I decided to make sleep as important to me as the food I ate, and I tackled my sleep project with the same intensity as my workouts. Now, according to my Fitbit, I get about 7 hours and 50 minute of sleep almost every night — and I’m not ashamed to say that I looooooove my very firm mattress and side-sleeper pillow.

Here’s a guest post from Kayla, the blogger behind Cookie Monster Gone Paleo, on why sleep just might be the best secret for being your beautiful best.

“The average adult needs to get a minimum eight hours of sleep each night.”

We’ve all heard this statement before, but the reasons are always overlooked. And if we’re going to be frank, who is going to add another thing to their already overloaded to-do list without knowing the benefits? Fortunately, Jon F. Sassin gives us the answer: “Each hormone studied to date in humans has shown a distinctive relationship to the sleep-waking cycle” (Neurobiology of Sleep and Memory, pg.361). What this means for us is that the amount we sleep at night governs the quality  at which our bodies and minds will perform, day in and day out.

Unfortunately in our modern society, sleeping patterns are becoming shorter and more chaotic. Many of us are working late into the night to pay for mortgages, tuition fees, cars, and bills. And even if we’re not working, many of us lay awake for hours at a time,  stressing over money, relationships, jobs, and school. The result? Hormonal havoc and suppressed immune systems that push our physical and mental well-being to the brink.

Here’s an example of what I mean by “hormonal havoc:” Let’s say that Sally goes to sleep between 11:30 pm and 12:00 am and wakes up the next morning at 6:00 am. Her friend Susan goes to sleep between 9:30 pm and 10:00 pm and wakes up the next day at 6:00 am. Research shows us that Susan is going to have a decreased chance of breast cancer, less fat gain, more energy, and more balanced cholesterol levels than night-owl pal Sally. In other words? Susan is the skinny bitch running around your office with her sexy high heels on, gym bag in hand, and a big smile plastered all over her glowing face.

Now before you panic, I should mention that Susan isn’t a hermit who only hangs out with her parents. Most of the time, she gets the required hours of sleep and enjoys the benefits that come with that. But because she has a life and realizes that humans are social beings, she does occasionally miss her eight hours. Sometimes, it might be more constructive for you to have fun, relax, and laugh than to go to sleep. The key is to learn to listen to your body so that you know when to do which.

The rest of the time, sleeping for eight hours will make you healthier and happier, just like Susan. Here’s why: Going to sleep at the proper time for the proper length of time encourages the release of several important hormones, including growth hormone and melatonin. These hormones do great things for your body: They burn fat, build lean muscles, fight cancer-producing free radicals, balance cholesterol, and stabilize your mood and energy levels. Now that sounds sexy.

Additionally, resting adequately at night ensures that you have healthy blood. When you don’t sleep for long enough, your body makes less white blood cells and that leaves you susceptible to disease, infection, and virus.

hr_brown1Tips to Get Your ZZZs

As I mentioned before, we are a busy, busy people and it’s getting even more difficult to get the rest that we so desperately need. Regardless of your situation, here are a few pointers that will benefit every lifestyle.

For busy bees:

1. Sleep in when you have the chance and don’t feel bad about it! Feeling guilty for doing something you need to do isn’t worth the stress

2. Make the most of your sleeping hours by keeping your room dark and void of any light sources (phones off and laptop lights covered). This keeps your melatonin levels high which ensures you’ll stay asleep and reap the full benefits of the melatonin.

3. Drink relaxing tea before bedtime to help you sleep more deeply.

4. Prioritize! Your health is more important than watching the Walking Dead.

If you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep:

1. New research has shown the benefits of grounding for people with sleeping disorders. For more information on grounding, pop on over to my blog.

2 As Melissa says, eat clean. For me and other people who have adopted the Paleo lifestyle, this means no grains, sugar, or dairy. It’s not as awful as it sounds. After reading Melissa’s first cookbook Well Fed (Citrus Carnitas!), I was inspired to start coming up with my own recipes. I do focus more on cookies and cakes, however, so I still use her cookbook regularly.

3. Exercise consistently. I’m not saying you need to crush it at the gym like a hard-body, but find some programs that you enjoy: Zumba? Crossfit? Swimming? Just work up a sweat! You’ll feel better, look better, and sleep better.

4. It may benefit you to go to a Naturopath (a doctor that uses food and herbs to heal) or Functional Medicine Practitioner to find out what’s wrong. They can assist you by teaching you what foods are good for you, specifically, and by prescribing you herbs or supplements to help get your hormones back in sync. (To find a paleo-friendly doctor, try Primal Docs or the Paleo Physicians Network.)

Day-to-day, sleep may not feel like a good use of your time, but sleep is like exercise and good fuel: you may have to sacrifice some things, invest more time and money, and be patient with the results. But it’s another necessary deposit in your good health bank that is worth your investment. Sweet dreams, everyone!

The Food Connection: The Right Food at the Right Time, Sam Graci
Neurobiology of Sleep and Memory, Jon F. Sassin

Kayla Lewry is an engineering student at Carleton University who loves to bake and blog in her spare time. For delicious paleo treat recipes or more articles like this, visit her site Cookie Monster Gone Primal.




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  • AKM says:

    “Sleep in when you have the chance and don’t feel bad about it!”

    I thought that a great number of sleep researchers have stressed that we should actually go to bed and get up at the SAME time EVERY day, even on weekends, and then just take short naps — like twenty-minute-short — if need be. Sleeping in actually throws off our circadian rhythms, I think?

    I’ve also read that the eight-hour traditional protocol doesn’t have to be the gold standard, either. Again, sleep research studies that I have read have mentioned the 90-minute-cycle approach, i.e. six hours of solid, quality sleep can actually be better for some folks than eight, due to the 90-minute REM cycle completion. Similarly, 7 1/2 hours and 9 hours are good for some folks as well, depending.

    Like with a lot of paleo/primal guidelines, I just think that experimentation is a good idea and YMMV.

    (I hope it’s clear that I’m just throwing other ideas out there and not being contrary! Quality sleep is a great topic, and your tips are great reminders!)