Sleep, Stress, Movement, and Connection: The Other Nutrients

Why THESE LIFESTYLE FACTORS ARE ESSENTIAL FOR GOOD HEALTH

These non-food nutrients matter. Like a lot. Read on to find out why these are so important. 

Lifestyle factors

SLEEP

 

Sleep is the new sexy kid on the block, and for good reason. More and more research is coming out how it will impact almost every aspect of health. This is the body’s time to detox, repair, and restore. 

 

The problem is in modern society, so many people aren’t sleeping well and we are sleeping less. This will directly impact weight control, brain function, hormone balance, and immune function. And most importantly, the shorter the sleep, the shorter the life span

Bottom line – you could have the perfect diet but if you aren’t sleeping, your health will suffer!

sleep bed sheets

WHY YOU NEED GOOD SLEEP

Brain Health

Quality sleep is directly related to the ability to learn new information, memory, problem-solving abilities, and creating neurotransmitters. During sleep, your brain cells actually shrink and allow toxic metabolites to be cleared. 

Want to be smarter, sharper, faster? Sleep.

Tissue growth and healing

When we sleep, blood flow is directed to muscles and this increases our tissue repair. Not only that but quality sleep is associated with better muscle coordination but solidifying muscle recall. Sleep is when we produce human growth hormone (HgH), which regulates body composition, tissue repair, and metabolism. 

Want to retain your lifting gains, heal injuries, and keep your metabolism revved? Sleep.

Strong Immune System Function

Sleep a lot more when you are sick? That is your body craving sleep knowing it is the time to boost the immune system and fight off infection. If you aren’t sleeping well, you aren’t able to detox, and repair is compromised. During sleep, your body increases some cytokines which help resolve inflammation and fights infections. 

Want a rock star immune system that is resilient and ready? Sleep.

Microbiome Management

The gut-brain connection happens through the vagus nerve and our microbiome controls much of this action. An imbalanced flora could contribute to leaky gut and send inflammatory compound to the brain, which influences stress response and keep you awake. 

Also reduced sleep can affect the population of bacteria in your gut and possibly lead to an unfavorable microbiome balance. 

Want a balanced microbiome because you know how important that is for everything? Sleep.

Hormone Balance

Sleep is essential to hormone regulation and in turn, hormone imbalance can negatively affect sleep. Hormones produced during sleep include human growth hormone, anti-diuretic hormone (so you don’t have to wake up to pee a thousand times at night), prolactin (yes, to secrete breast milk but also play roles in about 300 other processes in the body), and oxytocin (the looooove hormone).

Lack of sleep can also impact cortisol production and make you less resilient to stress. It will also impact the satiety and hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin. 

Want balanced hormones to function at your best? Sleep.

Metabolic Function

Poor sleep and sleep deprivation are related to decreased glucose metabolism, decreased insulin sensitivity, and increased hunger levels (thanks to a decrease in leptin, your satiety hormone). In fact, one study found that reducing sleep by only an hour and 20 minutes compared to the control group consumed 549 additional calories per day. Not only that but decreased sleep increased the desire for high-calorie foods

Reduced sleep is associated with obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. 

Want to stay at a healthy weight, have good energy throughout the day, and not crave crap foods? Sleep.

Better Mood

You know this already because when you don’t sleep well, you feel grumpy and irritable the next day. It has been shown in studies that sleeping less can lead to emotional dysregulation, sadness, anger, and mental exhaustion. In turn, depression and anxiety can affect sleep quality. 

Want to feel happy? sleep.

Want better sleep? 

bed sheets black and white

REASONS YOU AREN'T SLEEPING WELL

  • Imbalanced microbiome
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Excessive stress
  • Low blood sugar
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Chronic pain
  • Dysregulated cortisol patterns
  • Alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine consumption
  • Poor sleeping environment – noise, lights, temperature 
  • Some prescription medications
  • Chronic infections

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON'T SLEEP WELL

  • Fatigue
  • Increased weight gain & increased desire for unhealthy foods
  • Digestive issues 
  • Reduced healing 
  • Increased inflammation
  • Decreased detoxification

HOW TO SLEEP BETTER

  • Practice deep breathing before sleeping. 
  • Put your legs up the wall – this will put you in a parasympathetic state (where your body is relaxed)
  • Get off the screens at least an hour before bed
  • Practice mindfulness – mindful eating, gratitude practices, and meditation can actually help sleep quality
  • Get sun first thing in the morning. This will regulate the cortisol-melatonin cycle 
  • Exercise during the day, especially weight training. 
  • This will help you fall asleep faster, have deeper sleep, and wake up less throughout the night. 
  • Try some sleep-promoting neutraceuticals like GABA, L-theanine, magnesium, passionflower, CBD, or Ashwagandha.
5 instant energy hacks
woman in bed

STRESS

Ok, you’ve heard it a thousand times but chronic stress is seriously one of THE major culprits to chronic dis-ease. But here is the point I really want you to know- we can never get rid of stress. It is becoming more resilient to stress which is the key to mitigating the negative effects. 

There are physical stressors, mental stressors, and emotional stressors.

PHYSICAL STRESSORS

  • Sleep deficiency
  • Chronic infection
  • Food allergies
  • Hypersensitivities
  • Environmental toxins
  • Maldigestion
  • Malabsorption
  • Dehydration
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Blood sugar dysregulation
  • General inflammation
  • Injuries

MENTAL STRESSORS

  • Information overload
  • Perfectionist tendencies
  • Too much on your to-do list
  • Not resting and taking a break
  • Demands trying to balance work, family, and self-care
  • Excessive need to control environment & others

EMOTIONAL STRESSORS

  • Resentment
  • Fear
  • Worry
  • Guilt 
  • Shame
  • Anger
  • Anxiety

THE EFFECTS OF CHRONIC STRESS ON HEALTH

  • Digestive issues
  • Increased gut permeability
  • Hormone dysregulation 
  • Heart and blood vessel problems
  • Skin issues like acne, 
  • Auto-immunity
  • Impaired brain function
  • Weight gain & metabolic disorders
  • Adrenal issues
  • Lowered immunity

HOW TO INCREASE STRESS RESILIANCE

  • Meditation – it’s popular because it works
  • Mindfulness training
  • Getting good sleep
  • Mindset work like reframing negative thoughts
  • Releasing trying to control everything
  • Try tapping (Emotional Freedom technique) 
  • Trusting in a higher power
  • Practice grounding – connect to the earth 
  • Snuggle a pet
  • Having supportive relationships
  • Deep breathing
  • Laughing 
  • Adaptogens like ashwagandha, tulsi, and maca
Running shoes

MOVEMENT

Your body was meant to move. Look at nature – when things get stagnant, dis-ease happens. Movement doesn’t have to mean exercise – it just means literally moving your body. 

You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. We aren’t meant to sit in office chairs inside all day long.

WHY MOVEMENT IS SO IMPORTANT

  • Circulation
  • Digestion
  • Mental clarity
  • Detoxification
  • Metabolism
  • Immunity
  • Neurotransmitter production
  • Inflammation reduction
  • Better sleep

WAYS TO MOVE

  • Yoga
  • Dance
  • Walking
  • Tai chi
  • Stretching
  • Take the stairs
  • Do some chores around the house
  • garden
  • Play games
  • Do a 5-minute workout
  • Go for a hike
  • Outdoor activities like rock climbing, skiing, and swimming 
  • Take a bike ride
connection - girls laughing

CONNECTION

We are tribal beings. We need human connection, love, and support. Strong relationships can actually help you live longer, can directly uplift your mood, and reduce chronic stress. We are wired to love, to thrive in community, and to relate emotionally to others. 

 

The best way to stay connected? Show up, be kind, have an interest in others, share your emotions, and see the best in others.

 

This is part of the Foundations of Awesome Health series. 

Want more support? 

Kelleigh Kincaid

Kelleigh Kincaid

Kelleigh is a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner in Portland, Oregon and owns one too many house plants.

She loves all things wellness but definitely has an inner wild child and rebels against diet dogma.

Nerdy nutritionist to the core.

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