Why does the quality of your sleep matter?
When it comes to good health and fitness, many people overlook
sleep as an essential factor of a healthy body and mind.
Our bodies require long periods of sleep in order to restore, rejuvenate, repair and grow muscle, repair tissue and synthesise our hormones.
Getting a good amount of sleep is more important and more in your control than you may think.
Creating and following healthy sleep habits can make all the difference between restlessness and a sound sleep.
How does sleep effect our weight loss goals?
Muscle repair, appetite and metabolism all require sleep.
Poor sleep quality can really affect and disrupt our human growth hormones (HGH), which stimulates growth and repair of our muscles, as well as fat burning and bone building.
Research has also found that sleep deprivation can change glucose metabolism (our main source of fuel for exercise), which can impact energy levels when it comes to your workout effort.
While we sleep, the body balances our hunger-controlling
hormones and recent studies have discovered that poor sleep quality
affects brain regions that control
appetite, making it harder to stick to a healthy eating regime.
Lack of sleep and consecutive restless nights may result in
overeating or sugar cravings that can lead to binge eating. Not
favourable for anyone with a weight loss goal in mind!
So be mindful that you do most of your fat burning while you sleep!
How does sleep help to slow down ageing?
While you sleep, your skin cells and facial muscles get time to regenerate. The lines that are created during waking hours while your brain is in its active state means that they can relax while you are asleep. "Yes please" to slowing down the ageing process without needing expensive and painful forms of plastic surgery! Think of sleep as an anti-wrinkle cream without a bottle!
Good sleep can also fend off many types of illness. If you are feeling lethargic, sometimes all you need is a good rest to reset your body ready for the next day.
Exercise & Sleep Apnoea
Anyone who suffers from Sleep Apnoea - a condition that stresses the heart and repeatedly interrupts sleep when breathing briefly slows or stops, will know it can severely impact your health & quality of life. The most common form of sleep apnoea is called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.
Effects of sleep apnoea include, disturbed sleep, increases in heart rate and blood pressure and changes to your body's normal metabolic processes. If this is not rectified, you can develop serious long-term medical issues such as hypertension and diabetes.
Recently, medical studies have shown a favourable effect on
supervised exercise training with people who suffer from Sleep
Apnoea. The study showed that a simple exercise program that
walking and weight training cut the severity of their
disorder by 25%. Studies have also shown that sleep apnoea
increases blood pressure and has been linked to higher risks of
cardiovascular problems, including strokes, heart attacks,
heart failure, and arrhythmia. This makes regular exercise and
weight training a very good strategy because along with
treating sleep apnoea, exercise, as we know, has a range of
cardiovascular benefits in terms of alleviating established risk
It should be noted however that exercise alone cannot substitute for medical therapies but it is a step in the right direction.
Exercise had also improved daytime sleepiness and decreased
fatigue that was experienced by people suffering with sleep apnoea.
The study's participants reported that exercise sharpened their
thinking and improved other aspects of daytime functioning.
How you achieve better sleep through exercise
If you find it hard to sleep, physical activity increases sleep quality because it relieves mental stress, causes a relaxation effect once completed and physically tires you out.
The benefits occur due to our bodies body-heating effects when completing exercise. Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature and the post-exercise drop in temperature helps to promote falling asleep.
Exercise may also reduce insomnia by decreasing stimulation, anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly-provided it's done at the right time of day. Try and exercising first thing in the morning to start your day fresh and alert or try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed.
Food and sleep
The connection between food and sleep is complex.
There has been mixed evidence to show that certain foods, such as turkey, eggs, chicken fish and nuts can aid sleep as they contain amounts of tryptophan - the amino acid which is a building-block of the sleep related chemical serotonin.
However, studies have shown that people who are sleep deprived
tend to eat more fat-rich foods, simple carbohydrates and fewer
vegetables, because sleep loss alters chemical signals connected to
our metabolism and hunger.
Foods that are fatty, fried or spicy and upset your stomach are best to be avoided before sleep.
QUALITY vs QUANTITY
So how can you improve the quality of your sleep? Here are a few simple steps:
- Set a sleep schedule.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off. This encourages consistency and your body will find waking up at the same time habit.
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink.
Don't go to bed either hungry or over full and curb caffeine after around 1pm.
- Create a bedtime ritual which signals you are winding down for the day - i.e. stretching, reading a book before bed or listen to some calming music.
- Avoid vigorous exercise too close to bedtime as it stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone, Cortisol, which activates the alerting mechanism to our brains. Aim to finish a hard-cardio session (where you can) at least 3 hours before bed.
- Have a "digital detox" 1-2 hours before rest.
Did you know that the light on your mobile phone actually stimulates your brain? So, scrolling through social media while you are lying in bed will actually prolong you falling asleep!
- Lay off alcohol
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and eliminate any artificial lighting like TV, laptops or phones.
- Consume a balanced diet and don't eat too late before bedtime.
- Brush your teeth! The taste of toothpaste will signal that you are ready for bed!
- Fresh sheets for better sleep? Yes it's true, not only as you tend to be more excited to go to bed as they feel crisp and inviting but it also removes dust mites, pollen and mould which are all things that cause allergies and disrupt sleep.
How much is enough sleep?
Everyone is different sleep but the National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7-9 hours based on individual needs.
We are only beginning to learn the power of sleep and to quote
the words of a neuropsychologist "The people who do more physical
activity during the day, those with the highest energy expenditure,
are those who sleep better."
Your bedroom is your sanctuary from the stresses of your day. Create the best environment to get some quality zzz's and make it a part of your healthy lifestyle routine.
If you get enough sleep on a regular basis, you'll wake up looking and feeling younger and thinner. Who could ask for more?
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.