Why Reduced Sleep May be Preventing Your Healing
Updated Sep 11, 2019
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I don’t know who coined the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” but raise your hand if you’ve ever used it. Yup. Me too. And let me guess, you probably used it during a time that you were uber busy, overly ambitious and juggling multiple things. Trust me…I get it. But let’s get real for a sec. It’s a horrible phrase!
First, we all need sleep. It’s kinda up there with water and oxygen. And second, who wants to wait until they’re dead?!
Nourishment is More Than Just Food
Back when I was trying to heal my body from several autoimmune diseases, I was 100% focused on eating healthy. I knew food could be healing.
So I started with a strict gluten-free diet after my celiac diagnosis. Yet ironically, this was mistake #1. Why? Because I quickly learned that Snickers were gluten-free. Yes! And so were gummy bears and peanut M&Ms. Score! My doc never said anything about eating healthy, he only said I had to go gluten-free. And I, as the good patient, was doing exactly as I was told. *wink wink*
Right. Ok in hindsight, I was a doofus! This seemingly erroneous error in thinking delayed my healing by probably, oh, a good six months or more.
*hand slapping forehead*
Thankfully, soon thereafter I discovered “real food” and finally learned the importance of food quality and nutrient density. But as much as I was hoping for feeling 100%, I never quite got there with food alone. And I can imagine some of you are in the same boat. Frustrated with your healing journey, irritated that things aren’t improving faster and wondering… “what the heck am I doing wrong?”
But don’t feel bad. And don’t give up your gut-healing bone broth and sauerkraut just yet! What I’m about to tell you isn’t discussed frequently at your doctors office or in the healthcare community at large. And it’s this…
Sleep was a Key Reason I Wasn’t Healing
Sleep. Simple, simple sleep. Think about it for a second. How often do you actually think about what’s happening to your body when you’re sleeping?
If you’re like most, probably not very often. We just do it. We sleep because we know we have to. It’s a basic bodily function. And perhaps it’s precisely that reason – that we don’t really think about it – which is why we’re so apt to compromise it.
So let’s do a quick refresher on the vital things sleep does for our bodies:
Sleep Improves our Physical Health
Sleep is involved in the healing and repair of our blood vessels. It also helps to regulate our immune system, reduce inflammation and balance hormones. It makes sense then that sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. And since reduced sleep can weaken our immune system, we’re also more likely to get sick when we’re sleep deficient.
Sleep Improves our Brain and Emotional Health
When you’re sleeping your brain is literally buzzing with activity. It’s building new neural pathways and helping you learn, pay attention, be decisive, solve problems and remember things. Sleep also protects the brain, improves creativity and helps to keep you emotionally stable. So it should come as no surprise that sleep deficiency has been linked to depression, suicide, mood swings, and memory issues.
Think for a moment the last time you were sleep deprived. You may have felt a little woozy, irritable, forgetful, puffy, drained and slow. It might have even felt like you were hungover from an all-night bender! Without the documented selfies!
Yet those relatively “small” symptoms are only the tip of the wellness iceberg.
Massive, inter-connected systems are being affected, such as your digestive system, immune system, endocrine system, metabolism, cardiovascular system and neurological system, among others. These “mission critical” systems keep us healthy and properly functioning. And they’re all being compromised with sleep deficiency.
Now ask yourself again – is it any wonder that you’re not healing?
Sleep is our Rest and Recharge State
A couple of hours of reduced sleep here and there may not impact you greatly, but studies have shown a reduced lifespan and increase in death in those who consistently compromise their sleep.
And I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan to test out that research!
The big signal for me has been my psoriasis. While mostly controlled at this point, my psoriasis tends to flare immediately after I’ve had compromised sleep (or during times of high-stress…but that’s a whole ‘nother topic! )
Like a red, blinking light on your car’s dashboard, my psoriasis warns me when I’m not fully rested. As much as I don’t wish this annoying and aggravating skin condition on anyone, for me, it’s an outward signal that internally, my body needs some R&R.
Sleep, the Other Major Food Group
Along with food, sleep may be the most important factor in your healing and wellness. And there’s no magic number that’s suitable for everyone. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep. But if you’re currently in a healing phase, you may actually need more. And that’s ok!
So If you’ve been eating clean, have removed irritating foods from your diet…and still don’t feel awesome – focus on improving your sleep.
I promise you, your body and brain will thank you!
Do you have a red, blinking light that let’s you know when you’re sleep deprived? How do you feel after reduced sleep?