t's that time of year when everyone starts making big plans for their 2015. But so many people aren't able to maintain their new habits further than a few weeks into the new year. If you find yourself in danger of faltering, consider doing something differently this year: instead of picking at all the little things you think need changing, make one large, sustainable lifestyle change that will positively impact all the other small changes you'd like to make.
No matter what your ultimate intentions are for the year to come, there's nothing you can hope to achieve that won't require a solid base behind it. And that's where sleep comes in.
The most simple and impactful habit you can change to get healthy and maintain your goals in 2015 is to get your sleep. Here are seven reasons sleep is vitally important to making real, lasting changes in your life.
1. Sleep prevents stress.
Lack of sleep is a message to your body that you're are under stress, which sends a message to your brain to increase cortisol levels. High cortisol levels affect your overall health and weight. Furthermore, elevated levels of cortisol in your body can mess with your circadian rhythm and a solid night's sleep.
2. Sleep regulates blood sugar.
Raised cortisol also creates an imbalance in insulin and blood-sugar levels, causing us to not only crave (and eat) more sugar, but also store more fat, especially around the mid-section.
3. Sleep helps you wake up easier in the morning.
Sure, this one is a little obvious, but waking up rested allows you to have a nourishing morning routine which in turns sets the tone for the rest of your day. A good morning routine includes drinking water, having a healthy breakfast, a mindfulness practice and allowing yourself enough time to get out of the house without feeling stressed before the day even starts.
4. Sleep positively influences your food choices.
When we're tired, we often reach for coffee and sugar to jolt our energy levels and keep us going. But an overload of caffeine and sugar leads to a crash that can leave us even more tired than before.
Lack of rest also leads to poor choices when it comes to food, since exhaustion usually begets reaching for something to eat that's easy and comforting (which are rarely healthy choices). Making healthy food choices takes positive intention and effort, things that aren't possible without a well-rested mind.
5. Sleep can prevent mental (and physical) health issues.
Feeling depressed? Moody? Irritable? Impatient? You might want to take a look at your sleep patterns. We know that chronically high cortisol levels can cause weight gain and health issues like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and a weaker immune system, but it can also cause mental health issues like memory loss, lack of focus and impeded alertness.
6. Sleep slows the aging process.
Lack of sleep causes inflammation to the body which affects both weight and overall health. It also causes us to age faster. When your body has too much cortisol, collagen (the protein that keeps skin looking young and smooth) breaks down and wrinkles and dry, sallow skin show up instead. Still not convinced? Raised cortisol levels also slow down cell regeneration, negatively impacting muscle and bone health.
7. Sleep is a motivator.
When we're tired and exhausted, we don't feel motivated to do much more than sit on the couch and watch TV instead of getting up and being actively engaged in something. On the flip-side, getting enough quality sleep leaves us with almost a full day of energy ... more than enough to do more than just sit on the couch.
As you can see, one simple change can affect an entire day of positive habits. If you make one change this year, let sleep be your priority so you can live a nourished life, lose weight and lead a healthy life without feeling like every day is a struggle. Thrive in 2015!