Good quality sleep is the foundation upon which exercise and a good diet are built to create optimal health. That can be quite a statement, but there’s so much research on the subject now that it’s difficult to ignore.
DID YOU KNOW…
- When you are sleep-deprived and trying to lose weight, 70% of all your weight loss comes from lean muscle mass, not fat. The body will guard its fat stores jealously, believing that troubled times are coming.
- If you are consistently not getting enough sleep, the functionality of two critical hormones misfires: Leptin, the satiety signal that tells you you’re full, will be dropped, and ghrelin, the ‘I’m not satisfied’ signaller, will rise. Basically, it will silence the appetite suppressor, and activate the appetite increaser. Sleep deprivation can cause us to eat 200 – 300 kcals extra a day…
- When you’re in need of the zzzzs your motivation to be physically active plummets, plus the intensity when you’re training also plummets. Breathing is shallower, the body is tenser and less relaxed, and headspace is, to be blunt, not quite on the task at hand…
- Good sleep is the tide that raises everything else and balances it, from brain function to hormones, immunity to metabolism…
- Over the last century, our sleep average has gone from 8+ hours a night to 6.5, around a 20% reduction…
- A 5-hour-a-night sleeper is 4 times more likely to catch a cold than a 7-8 hourer…
- Deep sleep applies the brake to our autonomic nervous system, enabling cortisol levels to drop and allowing the body to go into parasympathetic mode. When the immune system is stimulated and refreshed, blood pressure is naturally reduced.
- The immune system stimulates the sleep system (that’s why we experience fatigue when we’re ill – the immune system wants the kettle off the boil so it can get on with its own natural killer cell activity), improving recovery times and reducing the risk of getting ill in the future.
If you would like to get a bit more sleep, then here goes some helpful tips…
Sleep Regular as clockwork
Go to bed and get up at the same time. Don’t do the social jetlag oversleep at the weekend. It confuses the brain and throws your sleep into disarray for days.
Keep the bedroom cool (18’ is optimal), which will put the body into the correct thermal space for sleep. And for heaven’s sake don’t have a hot bath just before bedtime.
Sleep in the Dark
Darkness stimulates our sleep hormone, melatonin. So, an hour before climbing the rickety steps to Bedfordshire switch off blue light-emitting devices and all overhead lights.
If you’ve been tossing and turning put a stop to it by walking it out, getting a drink, perhaps listening to the radio downstairs. Only go to bed again once you feel very sleepy. The brain needs to associate bed with sleep, not restlessness.
Don’t drink coffee past noon. Even then a full 25% of the caffeine will still be buzzing around your system at midnight.
Cut the high intensity exercise
If we exercise vigorously close to bedtime, the increase in endorphins, heart rate, and circulation can be disruptive to a good night’s kip. Stick with moderate intensity to induce an appropriately sleepy response. A Yoga or Pilates class could help.
To calm your nervous system, you could try throwing a meditative inner eye over your day. Even allowing yourself to get bored can also help you to switch off.
To a story, a calming app, even the Shipping forecast. Snoozing guaranteed…
Kathy O’Meara is a personal trainer specialising in cancer and cardiac exercise rehabilitation. She holds the National Qualification in Pre and Post Natal Exercise. She is a sports therapist, movement specialist, reflexologist and teaches a range of Les Mills classes at West Wood Club, Westmanstown www.powerdown.ie
Follow her on Instagram: @kathyomearapt or Facebook: Power Down