Be Grateful for Better Sleep
Now I am right there with all of you, I am ALWAYS grateful anytime I have better sleep. With three children and 20 years of delivering babies in the middle of the night, a full night's sleep is a blessing in my book any day. But that's not what I am saying here. I am saying if we ARE GRATEFUL, we may have better sleep as a result! Now that's something to talk about my friends!
A landmark 2003 study that showed us many of the powerful effects of gratitude in fact showed us that after 21 days of expressing evening gratitude in their journals, individuals reported more hours of sleep and better sleep quality. (1) They woke up feeling more refreshed! This was repeated again in 2016 (2) when women were asked to report three things they were grateful for in the evenings over 2 weeks and also had improved duration and quality of sleep. Incidentally, these women also had lower diastolic blood pressures.
I am guessing most of you know why good sleep is so very important for our health. But it's so important to understand this that we need to go over it right now. All of us are aware that when we don't get enough sleep, especially over a longer period, we don't feel well. We feel exhausted, our bodies can hurt, our brains don't function optimally. All of our tasks are harder and we have less patience for any of them. (sound familiar anyone??)
But there's much more about sleep that matters. You see, sleep is when our bodies not only restore themselves, it is when we REPAIR as well. We produce hormones at night to help with the wear and tear on our bodies. As well, our immune system secretes special proteins, called cytokines, at night that we need to fight infection. That's why good sleep helps us fight a virus but it's also why missing sleep can make it easier for us to get sick.
You need sleep to get ready to protect your body during the day!
We also know from multiple studies that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain and even obesity. Our complex, magical hormonal system secretes the hormonal mix we need at night to balance our growth, energy storage and hunger. When we miss sleep, we confuse these signals and during the day, we have hormonal imbalances that lead to carbohydrate cravings! Yes, your lack of sleep is disrupting your food the next day! As well, a 2010 study showed that even one partial night of sleep contributed to insulin resistance! (3)
You need sleep so that your body gets the right signals the next day for hunger and satiety. Put plainly, you gain weight when you don't sleep!
Studies also show that decreased sleep puts us at risk for cardiovascular disease. (4) This makes sense because we have so much data now about the increased inflammation in our bodies with sleep deprivation. In fact, we all need to pay attention because it seems that mortality rates from ischemic heart disease, cancer, stroke, and all causes combined were lowest for individuals sleeping 7 or 8 hr per night.
You need sleep to protect your heart and live longer!
See why those zzz's are so very important to your overall well being? With good food, physical activity and a sound mind body stress management program, sleep is a pillar of sound health we cannot ignore. Adults should get somewhere between 7-8 hours of sleep (there is also data that more than nine may be risky for adults' bodies as well). We cannot afford to settle for less.
There are numerous factors that contribute to a good night's sleep including minimizing alcohol and caffeine, avoiding the blue light of screens in the couple of hours before bedtime, having your own wind down ritual, relaxation practices at bedtime, regular exercise, getting enough regular sunlight, etc. But let's not discount the power of gratitude on this. Not only do studies evidence this effect as we have discussed, but I think there is some unsaid power of changing your perspective before bedtime.
Think about the times you have tried to sleep, restlessly tossing and turning as you think about something that is weighing heavily on your mind? Maybe it was something that happened that day or a stressor you are anticipating the next day. Or even something that is chronically worrying you. Realize you do not have to believe every thought. Whatever is stressing you out, it is NOT actually happening right then and there in bed. Let it go by concentrating instead on three things that you are grateful for that day. Let that be what leads you into slumber. Rewire your thoughts at that moment to work in your favor.
So here's your prescription today that has no risky side effects or drug interactions: Take out that journal we talked about in our foundations to gratitude practice, every evening for a month. List three things each night you were grateful for that day. Close journal, turn off the light, sink into your pillow with a smile and full heart... and let's see what happens.
Instead of only being grateful when you get good sleep, let's reframe that to be grateful SO THAT we get good sleep!
Your health depends on it.
Live (and sleep) well,
(1) Emmons and McCullough. Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 84(2), Feb, 2003. pp. 377-389.
(2) Jackowska et al. The impact of a brief gratitude intervention on subjective well-being, biology and sleep. Journal of Health Psychology. Vol 21, Issue 10, pp. 2207 - 2217
(3) Donga et al; A Single Night of Partial Sleep Deprivation Induces Insulin Resistance in Multiple Metabolic Pathways in Healthy Subjects. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2010; 95 (6): 2963-2968. doi: 10.1210/jc.2009-2430
(4) Nagai et al. Sleep Duration as a Risk Factor for Cardiovascular Disease- a Review of the Recent Literature. Current Cardiology Reviews. 2010;6(1):54-61. doi:10.2174/157340310790231635.