THE BLOG

Want Good Health? Start Treating Sleep As A Priority

03/03/2015 01:26 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT

I'll often hear from parents "family was visiting so bedtime was late" or "we can't miss our daily programs so it's hard to fit in naps." I'm not completely unrealistic and I get that life goes on and we can't always protect our sleep or our children's sleep 100 per cent. Bedtimes are going to be late and naps are going to be missed every now and then, and that's okay.

When it's continually happening though we are now taking sleep, one of the three pillars of health for granted. We are now treating this biological need as a luxury, one that can be missed and mistreated. What we need to understand is that sleep needs to be treated as a priority, and without it we can't properly protect the other two pillars, nutrition and exercise.

Nutrition for Mom and Dad:

Studies have shown us that sleeping and eating are linked and when we are sleep deprived and suffering sleep loss we can have an increase in appetite and consume more calories and larger amounts of carbohydrates. Frequent sleep loss means that levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone, leptin decreases and can't signal to the brain that you are full. Also when you feel tired you tend to crave sugar to manifest the energy you are lacking. Lack of sleep can lead to insulin resistance and because your body can't get the sugar out, it craves more sugar. This can be a leading cause in obesity, exhaustion, and even diabetes.

Nutrition for the Children:

Once a baby or child becomes overtired they can also become over stimulated. Children that are tired can be more hyperactive, oppositional, and irritable. It's an ongoing cycle and one affects the other. In either case it's tough to feed an overtired or over stimulated baby and forget trying to get your tired and cranky toddler to sit down and eat a meal.

Exercise for Mom and Dad:

How sleep affects our overall energy and fitness level is a no brainer. If you haven't had the right amount of consolidated high-quality sleep who feels like putting on their running shoes? Exercise and sleep is on ongoing cycle of health. Regular exercise can help you to fall asleep faster and sleep more restoratively throughout the night and sleeping better at night helps makes sure your muscles are well-rested and you feel more refreshed with vitality and motivation to continue your daily workouts.

Exercise for the Children:

Overtired children have impaired hand-eye coordination, which can impact your child's fine motor skills. Walking, running, climbing stairs, and riding bikes can suddenly be extremely unsafe. As I mentioned lack of sleep produces a lack of energy where children are prone to choose their electronic toy over healthy indoor or outdoor activities. Getting our kids better rested and more active can help combat the risk of childhood obesity.

So the next time someone tells you sleep isn't a need or not that important please remind them otherwise. Without healthy sleep as our foundation many other important needs can struggle and fail. Take a nap. Go to bed early. Make sleep a priority in your family and treat it as it should be treated - as an essential part of your every day life.

This post originally ran on Good Night Sleep Site

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

Sleep Deprivation Can...