How to Prioritize Sleep for Improved Health, Skin, and Digestion
You could be the healthiest eater and exerciser in the world, but if you aren’t getting enough sleep, you still won’t be feeling like your best self. I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before, but sleep really is the key to a happier and healthier life. Not only will sleep increase your productivity levels throughout the day, but it also has the power to improve your skin, digestion, and overall health. So let’s learn how to prioritize it!
- In order to maintain bodily functions and promote brain health, sleep is the most essential.
- You can prioritize your sleep by creating a bedtime ritual, putting electronics away, getting exercise, and so much more.
- Getting the proper amount of sleep each night will allow your body to perform better digestion, promote skin health, and decrease the risks of developing mental health issues.
Sleep holds all the power
If it were up to me, I would never go to sleep because I love socializing and being productive at every moment of the day. However, when I have busier weeks where I'm lacking in the sleep department, I suffer! This leads to the overarching question of why do people need sleep to function.
Think of your body like a cell phone. It needs to be charged in order to stay awake and provide us with the functions we need. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up.”
Without sleep, your body and brain begin to shut down and stop allowing imperative day-to-day functions to perform well or at all. Serious issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and poor mental health can begin to arise as a result of lack of sleep.
The more serious issues arise from a severe lack of sleep, but there can be other smaller side effects of just missing the eight to nine recommended nightly hours by just a little bit. If you’re able to prioritize completing your school or work assignments, I guarantee you have the ability to prioritize your sleep as well. Getting the proper amount of sleep every night can significantly improve your health, skin, and digestion.
How to prioritize your sleep
When you’re a busy person and have a lot of responsibilities, it can be easy to sacrifice sleep. However, learning how to prioritize sleep might actually increase your productivity throughout the day and leave you feeling like gold. Here are a few tips on how you can learn to prioritize sleep.
- Bedtime rituals
Humans are creatures of habit. Just like so many things in life, consistency is key. Creating a bedtime ritual for yourself may be your best bet in working toward prioritizing sleep. Though hectic schedules disrupt consistent sleep, even making a schedule for a few days a week can significantly increase the quality of sleep.
Creating a bedtime ritual helps your body adjust and tell you when it's’ ready for bed and ready to wake up, which might help you in making the choice to put off some responsibilities in the morning. Create a ritual with simple tasks like a shower, skin care, reading, meditating, and then sleep. Get creative and make it so that you look forward to your bedtime ritual each night.
- Electronic limit
Say goodbye to the toxic habit of mindlessly scrolling through social media right before you fall asleep. The light coming from any electronic device can seriously disrupt melatonin levels, which leads to trouble falling and staying asleep. Try to avoid all types of electronic devices at least an hour before bed so that your body has time to wind down and your melatonin levels can help you fall asleep.
- Avoid eating right before bed
The occasional fun midnight snack is fine, but avoid forming a habit of eating food right before you want to go to sleep. According to The Cleveland Clinic, eating before bed can mess with your metabolism and insulin levels, which all circles back to your body’s circadian rhythm and regulating sleep.
Eating before bed can also cause discomfort since it won’t be fully digested by the time you lay down and try to fall asleep. This discomfort may make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Make sure that you are eating dinner at least 2 hours before you plan on going to bed.
- Stay active
Exercise improves sleep quality by literally tiring you out. If you are constantly moving, your body is going to naturally begin to shut down at night to repair and rest itself. On top of exercise helping with the quality of sleep, a study at Northwestern University also revealed that achieving the average amount of physical activity per day can work to alleviate insomnia. So prioritizing your physical health can actually work to benefit your sleep as well.
Benefits of prioritizing your sleep
Besides all of the benefits listed above, there are other incentives to making yourself achieve the proper amount of sleep.
1. Improved digestion
Did you know that a sleep-stomach connection actually exists? Essentially, the amount and quality of sleep you receive have a direct impact on gut health. A healthy sleep cycle produces two hormones called melatonin and prolactin, which provide your intestines with good bacteria. This type of bacteria helps with digestion, aiding in breaking down the food and drinks you consume.
A lack of sleep can also significantly increase cortisol levels, which create a hormone imbalance. A rise in cortisol levels can lead to stomach issues such as bloating, inflammation, stomach pain, and even food sensitivities. Getting a full night's rest has the ability to heal and soothe some gut issues you may already have and avoid future ones from forming.
2. Healthier skin
Collagen levels decrease as we age, which results in looser and saggier skin. Luckily, from all the information we now have on the internet, we’ve learned that there are many ways to halt this process to keep your skin looking firm. Getting 8-9 hours of sleep per night is one of the main ways we can keep our skin looking young and healthy…hence why they call it beauty sleep!
When we sleep, our skin constantly generates new collagen to prevent wrinkles and sagging. Many dermatologists state that even getting 2-3 fewer hours of sleep each night can lead to twice as many fine lines as the recommended time of eight to nine hours. Sleeping also increases blood flow to the skin, which provides color and a glowy look to your skin. Adequate blood flow to the skin can also help with treating acne and other skin issues.
3. Mental health and focus
We all know how we feel when we ‘wake up on the wrong side of the bed...it’s not fun. One bad night of sleep can significantly affect our mood and overall mental health. Well, research has shown that sleep directly correlates to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health issues that can be aggravated by a lack of rest.
If we aren’t hitting that eight to nine hour mark at least the majority of the time, then our brain health will start to decline significantly.
Not all mental health issues can simply be fixed by sleep, but using some of these methods to put yourself first and prioritize your sleep elicits more positive emotional responses. Sleep also helps maintain crucial day-to-day cognitive skills such as focus, retention, behavior, and attention. Implementing more sleep into your life has the power to make you smarter and happier.
It can be hard to make the choice to prioritize yourself in the competitive world we all live in today. However, the more effort you put into taking care of your brain and bodily health, the happier and more productive you will be. Finding ways to prioritize sleep will truly change your life for the better.
Written by Emma Carlson
- Photo by Taisiia Shestopal on Unsplash