Feel Good Friday: Recovery 101

Feel Good Friday : Recovery 101

By: Hayley Bridgewater

 

 

While it is becoming more of a normal occurrence these days, it is an understatement to say that unpredictable weather presents challenges to New York City residents and specifically to local commuters trying to get around and get things done. The biting wind, momentary downpours, and drastic temperature swings have us all debating “what are we going to wake up to next?” and“how is this going to affect my daily routine?”

 

Transits disruptions and mass incidence of illness drive a great many of us off our regular patterns. Missed work hours keep us late at the office and even later getting home.  Sleep is sacrificed, meals rushed, gym appointments skipped, and suddenly we find ourselves in a spiral of stress, exhaustion, and a compromised immune system.

 

What if I told you that the key to “righting the proverbial ship” could lie in focusing on one thing? An essential piece of the puzzle that has the power to pull the rest of your schedule back into place, something that we are all quick to forfeit yet remains a most crucial need. Would you guess that I was talking about sleep?

 

It is true.  We are quick to give up sleep. And it could be one of the most detrimental sacrifices we make. Lack of good sleep directly impacts mental processing, can slow down productivity, alter mood, sap your energy and physical ability, and cause weight fluctuation.

 

If you are like me, it is when I am run down and exhausted that I crave junk food. I try to rationalize to myself that a couple of cookies will give me that sugar buzz to get me through the day. No harm, no foul, right? Not exactly. Turns out that there is good reason for this pattern. Studies reveal again and again a correlation between sleep deprivation and overeating.

 

The reason is chemical.  In each of us, there are two hormones that regulate hunger. When you need nourishment, your body produces Ghrelin, a hormone that will stimulate your appetite. Upon eating, your body produces Leptin, which then tells your brain you are full. Studies show that sleep-deprived individuals actually have increased levels of Ghrelin, and falling levels of Leptin. This exhibits a significant correlation between lack of sleep and overeating. The less we sleep the more we want to eat. And it is not exactly like we are slamming crudité when we are feeling sapped.

Some of the most important work that your body will do occurs during sleep. Think of it like taking your car into the shop. It is crucial maintenance that keeps your body running productively. Muscles are repaired, blood cleaned and circulated, cells renewed. This is definitely not “down time”.  Sleep is literally preparing you for living.  Quality sleep can provide quality of life.

 

I know that you are thinking, I don’t have time for more than X amount of hours of sleep. Or perhaps you battle getting to sleep or staying asleep. But I assure you that if you commit to making it a priority (and this is not going to happen overnight) you will see an improvement. This is coming from a girl that spent 8 years with severe insomnia. I will leave you with a few tricks of mine. J

 

1.      Try to set a regular sleep schedule. We are so concerned with sleep training children and pets, yet we don’t see the impact that it can have in our own lives.

 

2.      Embrace daily physical activity. This is a no brainer. Come to the gym!! Our bodies are designed for activity and the exertion will help set a recovery pattern.

 

3.      Avoid screens and other technology at least an hour or two before bed. We have all experienced that “can’t stop thinking about my to-do list” ceiling stare. The texts and emails will be there tomorrow…put it down.

 

4.      Alcohol and caffeine are known sleep inhibitors.  Keep that in mind as you are planning your rest. They may make you crash, but they will rarely keep you asleep. 

 

5.      Foods that contain natural tryptophan, melatonin, or other anti-inflammatory compounds are your friends. I swear by tart cherry juice, bananas, oats or Greek yogurt. All of these foods encourage serotonin release in the body, which can relax and prepare you for sleep.

 

As we allow our bodies proper rest, we will find that we feel restored, more energetic and clear. We are better able to make good decisions in our lives, decisions that serve our overall health and well being, which in turn makes us productive in our daily work and physical life. Sleep can be the key to flipping the cycle in the correct direction.