We focus so much of our attention on the daytime hours – eating, moving, and connecting – that sleep can drop to the bottom of our priorities. Yet the amount and quality of our sleep determines our mood and mental sharpness the following day and for years to come. Why? Because sleep is a state of being that heals our bodies and minds. When you allow your body to recover after a long day, it can perform the essential task of refreshing your cells as it clears out the waste generated by all of your metabolic functions.
3 Benefits of Sleep
1 // Sleep for Memories: Sleep is the time when your short-term memories are filed away for long-term safekeeping. Too little, or even too much sleep, has been associated with an earlier decline in cognitive health.
2 // Sleep for Calm: When we dream, we resolve neglected emotions from the day before. Without dreams and sleep, complex emotions follow us to the next day. Dreaming helps us maintain our emotional balance.
3 // Sleep for Beauty: Our skin also uses the nighttime to heal and repair. Missing sleep not only leads to dark circles, puffy skin, and red eyes, but it can also exacerbate some skin disorders like eczema or rosacea. To feel great and look your best, get enough rest.
Light Management is Key to Managing Your Circadian Rhythm
The daily ebb and flow of energy in our bodies is known as our circadian rhythm. It is a balance of information from your internal biological clock and the light sources in your environment – including the sun, the fluorescent lights in your office, and the glare of your laptop or tv.
Our internal clocks use light as a signal. For most of human history this was simple – we rose with the sun, and rested when it was dark. Today, we are exposed to light at all hours of the day from street lights, computers, phones, and televisions. With all of that light streaming in, our internal clocks get confused about when we should sleep and when we should stay awake. The rhythm has been disrupted.
Our health is the first thing to be impacted by this disruption. We may suffer from insomnia, become more irritable, or hungrier than usual. For example, late night eating can result in more weight gain because your body has to work on digesting the food you just ate while you sleep, so your digestive system never gets a break.
Resetting Your Body’s Clock
Sleep disruptions, like too much travel or too many late nights in a row, can cause cognitive impairment during which we become slower, less smart, and more prone to making mistakes. Those are just short-term consequences of messing with our natural sleep patterns. When you have a lifestyle that interrupts your sleeping rhythm on a consistent basis, the results can be more severe. For example, having the “night shift” at work has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and likelihood of cancer.
Sleep is critical to your health. Here is an exercise you can use to rest your circadian rhythm:
Morning Routine // Get some sun in your eyes: when you wake up, throw open the curtains, throw on a sweatshirt, and get outside for a 10-minute walk to spark your inner clock.
Nighttime Routine // Let your eyes rest: reduce blue light exposure at night, which means shutting down your phones, computers, tablets, and other devices at least an hour before bed.
So how much sleep is enough? A survey of 1 million Americans proved that for optimal health, 7 is the magic number. You can read more about rest, movement, and nutrition in The Longevity Book.