How much better do you feel after you've had a good nights sleep? A solid 8 hours, going to bed at a reasonable time and waking up without even needing your alarm. Not dreading the day because you feel ready for action.
Signs that you aren't getting good quality sleep could be:
Tired in the middle of the day
Wake up feeling like you could go straight back to bed
Not being able to function without Caffeine
Lack of Energy
Brain Fog - unable to think clearly
Sleep is THE most important thing that you do. You will find that we are the only animal that practically does it's level best to avoid sleep - dosing up on caffeine, adrenaline, artificial light and whatever else it takes to stay awake.
We seem to feel that there is always more to do, a never ending supply of information, memes, gifs and comments that we must supply to the world.
Are these just the matrix trying to grab our attention away from what we really should be doing?
Much like in "the Matrix" humans are essentially batteries - sleep, movement, exercise, water, magnetism, food, light are things that keep our batteries charged, full of energy and ready to go. If we lack in any of these areas then illness, lethargy and disease could be around the corner.
The problem is is that lacking of sleep is rarely seen as a problem until it REALLY becomes a problem. Not only is it not seen as a problem but you almost have bragging rights about how LITTLE sleep that they have.
Sleep is important for many reasons - here are the 3 that I think are most important.
When we sleep it is the only chance that your Brain has to clean itself. All of the cellular debris (waste) that builds up throughout the day can only be flushed out when we sleep.
As with all cells of our body, sometimes they die (autophagy) this is actually a good thing. We don't want old decrepit cells doing the work. It's like asking your great granddad to climb a ladder and replace the roof. He might be able to do it but it's going to take a much longer time than if your cousin (who's a roofer, aged 21) and his team come along and do it.
If you lack sleep, those poor connections in the Brain remain, the cellular debris that built up from the day before hasn't been cleaned away. Over time these weak connections and debris build up. You can then lack concentration, become more forgetful, lose coordination, balance etc.
The lymphatic system - our internal sewerage system - picks up that debris and moves it back towards the blood supply so that our kidneys can then pick it up and flush it out. If you aren't getting enough sleep, you aren't giving your body enough chance to do the cleaning. Cellular debris builds up leading to a slower functioning thought process. Things that once seemed easy now become more difficult, small challenges become giant mountains to get over because you haven't slept well in weeks/months/years. (Anxiety, stress, OCD, depression) - on a side note, tight muscles and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to blockages of the lymphatic system.
All of our glands are controlled from the Brain, via the hypothalamus. If you have poor sleep then your glandular function will be affected.
Let's think about this one for a little while - The Pancreas is a gland, responsible for many things but we predominantly know it as a Insulin producer to keep blood sugar levels within "normal" ranges. With poor sleep and a poorly functioning glandular system there is an increased risk of developing Diabetes. A tired Brain and body leads to a tired system that functions slowly. (Diabetes, Inflammatory conditions, autoimmune conditions)
Other glands: thyroid (Metabolism), adrenal glands (stress hormones), thymus (immunity)
Stress. Coming back to hormones here, adrenaline is no doubt a hormone you've heard of and it's close relative Cortisol - think of a corticosteroid injection - this is a massive boost to cortisol directly to an area to reduce inflammation. Both cortisol and adrenaline are stress response hormones, cortisol works closely with Insulin to maintain HIGH blood sugar. If we find ourselves in a dangerous situation, we need a big shot of cortisol and sugar straight into the blood stream immediately to survive, fight or flight. The release of these hormones sets up a chain reaction in your body to narrow blood vessels, increasing blood pressure so that blood can reach our extremities (legs and arms) so that we can run/fight quickly with great strength and speed.
It should be reserved only for emergency situations where the hormones are "used up" However, in the modern world, we find ourselves in stressful situations regularly with no outlet, it's unlikely you find yourself in a life or death situation regularly. These stress hormones in your body regularly increase the amounts of these hormones, unable to use them in the way that they were intended, they float around in our system wreaking havoc, disturbing sleep, making us wired, ready for a fight that is never going to happen and can contribute to elevated blood sugar levels. (anger, frustration, high and low moods) - common tight areas - hips, knees and calves.
You never ever wake up specifically to eat and if you do, something is wrong!
There's good reason for this.
Your guts need a chance to recover, repair and rest, the same as your brain does. Ideally we would have 12 - 16 hours between dinner and breakfast. You might think that that is a long time, but if you sleep for 8 hours then you're only awake for 4 of those fasting hours.
We have been trained by marketing departments of every food company and government health department that we need 3 meals per day with 1 or 2 snacks inbetween to maintain energy balance and never to go more than 4 or 5 hours without eating. (to keep blood sugar levels balanced)
Even the Terminator took time to fix his arm
Your body can't work non-stop, for your whole life, without taking a break from time to time. Your guts NEED this daily fasting so that they can recover sufficiently to deal with the deluge that you're going to give them tomorrow.
The guts also produce many of our hormones
90% of serotonin is produced by the gut - which in turn is converted to melatonin, which is released when it gets dark for sleep.
low serotonin = low melatonin = poor sleep
If the guts are not functioning well, sleep is affected. When sleep is affected we tend to crave sugar and very regular meals creating a viscous circle leading to weight gain, potentially diabetes and obesity due to the poor choices you are more likely to make.
The Ketogenic Diet and Intermittent fasting.
We've already touched upon Intermittent Fasting (IF) by only eating in an 8 - 12 hour window during the day and having a 12 - 16 hour fast by eating your dinner early in the evening.
That is all that is required for the basics of IF.
I'm not going to harp on about ketosis and ketogenic diets - I approve but not my area of expertise currently. Further reading from sources that I