Heather Mangieri, MS, RD, CSSD
Sports Dietitian/Spokesperson/Speaker

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Sleep: For More Than Just Beauty

Researched & Written by: Laura Maydak, Nutrition Intern
Reviewed by: Heather Mangieri, RD

When I say January 3rd, what comes to mind (besides going back to work and school)?

Probably nothing, right?

Well, until recently it meant nothing to me either.  But, I have good news: the holidays aren’t over after January 1st, because January 3rd is National Sleep Day.  It may not sound as exciting as other holidays, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as important.

The beginning of the year means new resolutions added to already busy schedules.  The hours in a day don’t increase as your to-do list does, so something needs to get cut.  For many people, sleep is the first thing to go.

You resolved to exercise more: now you wake up earlier. 
You resolved to eat healthier: now you stay up later preparing food for the next day.

A prime example of this sleep-doesn’t-matter mindset came over the holiday break.  One night, my older brother said, “Why would you go to sleep when you can just stay up and do more things?”  I love him, but this is an instance when older does not mean wiser.

The fact of the matter is: sleep affects your health in more ways than you realize, and getting enough of it is crucial to your wellbeing (including sticking to your healthy-lifestyle resolutions).   Still agree with my brother?  Let’s look at the facts:

Sleep and Weight

  • Sleep deprivation may hinder your brain’s decision-making capacity and stimulate the brain’s reward and motivation regions, causing you to choose unhealthy foods
  • A study with twins showed that adequate sleep caused environmental factors (such as diet and exercise) to be more important in determining weight than genetic factors
  • Less sleep is associated with eating more and moving less

Sleep and Exercise

  • Hormones that aid in muscle recovery and bone health are released during sleep
  • A safe and effective workout session is dependent on whether or not you are rested; you need energy to get the most out of the workout, and you are more likely to break form and injure yourself when you’re tired

Sleep and Overall Wellbeing

  • Lack of sleep is associated with higher levels of anxiety
  • Sleep deprivation negatively affects immune system function

Now, ask yourself:

  • Does the chocolate seem extra appealing late at night?
  • Are you going to the gym so early that you end up lying down on the stretching mat, seconds away from falling asleep?
  • Are you starting to feel a little under the weather?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, consider changing your sleeping habits to get more shut-eye.  It may be time to channel your childhood: set a “bedtime”, turn off electronics at least an hour before going to sleep, and avoid caffeine late in the day.  Even though National Sleep Day has passed, why not continue to celebrate it all year long?  Happy sleeping.

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