On our journey to a healthy weight, we often talk about navigating cravings and other physical impulses. The desire to sit on the couch rather than to go for a walk. The desire to eat sugary foods instead of our healthy fuelings. And even how thirst, our desire for water, is sometimes disguised as a feeling of hunger.
We need to become mindful of the messages our bodies send and understand how they work so that we can make optimal decisions in our lives.
Part of the Habits of Health Transformational System is understanding how our Stone Age survival programming works so that we can better navigate what’s really happening when our bodies send us a message. For example, we are hardwired to pursue high-calorie sweets because our caveman ancestors found these foods incredibly valuable. In a time when every calorie was critical, foods that were rich with energy were a big advantage, but today, finding calories is rarely a problem, so this programming now works against our best interests.
Sleep is another area where our original programming is not well-suited to our modern lives. If you’ve ever woken up tired in the morning only to find yourself feeling wide awake the following evening, unable to fall asleep, you’ve experienced this first hand.
As a key physiological drive, the urge to sleep, much like hunger and thirst, plays an essential role in creating health and wellbeing. We are designed to live a third of our life in a state of unconsciousness, and yet modern life has reduced sleep for most into a luxury which fits in the cracks of our over-complicated lives.
And data shows our health and wellbeing are taking a significant hit as we ignore proper rest. The research gathered over the last decade is starting to uncover the key role that sleep plays in maintaining optimal health and the necessity of a good night’s sleep to not only our health but our survival. One study, designed to test the vital importance of enough sleep, purposely deprived rats of sleep and the results were startling:
All of the rats died within a month!
Sleep is nature’s nurse. It powers several key restorative processes in our bodies and is a critical part of healthy decision making and appetite control. If we don’t get restful sleep, the rest of our health suffers.
But what about modern life makes sleep difficult? Here are the major factors:
- A lack of routine. Our Stone Age ancestors woke up when the sun rose, took short naps during the day, and went to sleep when the sun went down after a long day of hunting and gathering. Today, our society drives a 24/7 pace.
- Blue light. Our bodies are designed to use sunlight to judge when to be asleep and when to be awake, but now our dependence on screens means that we are flooded with light at all hours.
- Caffeine. As we lurch from tired day to tired day, many of us rely on caffeine to stay energized. The half-life of caffeine is surprisingly long, which means that afternoon cup of coffee can derail our healthy bedtime.
- Stress. Our hectic lives keep us in a heightened state of anxiety because we feel threatened. In nature, this is ideal for avoiding predators, but today that means a mean email from our boss can ruin our night.
There are more facets to a sleep routine, of course, but these are some of the most common obstacles we hear our community discuss. Element 19 in Your LifeBook gives you a step-by-step plan for revolutionizing your sleep, but until then, here are some great tips from the Habits of Health Facebook Group:
What tips would you add?