Sleep as Self-Care: Why Rest is a Key to Wellness
There's no doubt that we feel our best when we're well rested. The American Psychology Association would agree, reporting that "sleeping 60 to 90 minutes more per night can make you happier and healthier." Sleep as self-care might sound bold, but the science checks out. It isn't just important for our physical health - it's also critical for our overall mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Have you ever "snapped" at someone after a night where you didn't sleep so great? You can credit sleep deprivation for that. When we're running low on rest, the amygdala (known as the emotional center of the brain) is 60% more reactive, so you're more likely to experience mood swings and feel irritable. Various aspects of brain function related to performance are also significantly impaired, including cognition, concentration, productivity and creativity. Working after a bad night's sleep? Not recommended, yet often required as a new mama!
On the physical side, sleep deprivation does some damage to the body both immediately and overtime. The National Sleep Foundation shares that when we aren't getting enough rest, we're likely higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite. Lack of sleep also activates our body's inflammatory responses, which isn't great for our digestive tract or body's ability to recover after a tough workout. Without quality sleep, we also put a strain on our immune system, leaving us more prone to catching a cold and making it harder to fight one you already do have.
When you look at this evidence, it is impossible to deny that sleep is important for our overall health. Yet 1 in 3 adults don't get enough of it (7 hours per day) according to the CDC. Why are we quick to sacrifice sleep when our lives start to get hectic? Perhaps because our society as a whole has come to overvalue working hard and hustling, while undermining rest and seeing it as laziness.
We prioritize eating well and moving our bodies, but we dismiss the fact that we need sleep in order to thrive and really show up in our lives. By choosing to shift our mindset and see sleep as self-care, we can begin to ease any "guilt" or "shame" associated with rest. Let it be known that rest is absolutely an essential key to your overall health and wellness - getting your 7 hours in per day is just as important as your 64 ounces of water.
The next time you find yourself ready to shortchange your sleep schedule, reconsider and remember: sleep is self-care.