What would you do if I told you that sleep could be the secret to you living a longer and healthier life? You'd jump into the sheets of a night time a lot quicker than staying up watching the latest Netflix special right? Sleep is the greatest performance enhancing drug that most people are neglecting. We as human beings are the only species that purposely neglects sleep for no apparent reason. But why is it that sleep is so important to us and how can we ensure we get a better night's sleep every night?
So, let's take a look at some of the effects of lack of sleep and poor-quality sleep…
Dr Matthew Walker, a Neuroscientist and sleep expert states in his recent book, "Why we sleep", recent studies have shown if you're getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night your physical exhaustion drops by 30%, your lactic acid build up is quicker, you have lower peak muscular strength, vertical jump height and peak running speed and you're also more inclined to injury, with one study showing a 60% increase in probability of injury if you get less than 5 hrs of sleep per night. As you can see in these recent studies, sleep becomes very important to physical activity and ensuring the body is repairing itself properly. If you're feeling like you didn't get the most out of your training session or are about to complete your goal of a fun run or even marathon, something as simple as a good night sleep before can improve your run time and less prone to injury.
Short sleep doesn't just affect our life in the here and now but also makes a significant contribution to our future health. During a deep sleep at night, there is a sewage system in the brain that cleanses the brain of metabolic toxins that have been accumulated throughout the day. One of these toxins in Beta Amyloid, which is responsible for the underlying mechanism of Alzheimer's disease. What does this mean? The less sleep you have throughout your life the more prone you are to potentially develop Alzheimer's disease later in life.
Sleep is essential in Weight loss and is one of the best kept weight loss secrets! People who lack sleep have a decrease in their Leptin levels, which is the hormone that tells our brain we are full and an increase in Ghrelin, which is our hunger hormone. To put this into simple terms, due to lack of sleep your body is more likely to not register if you are full and will keep telling you it is hungry. What does this lead to? In a recent study people who sleep 5 hours a night will on average eat 200-300 extra calories each day, which equates to 70,000 extra calories per year.
So how do we improve our sleep and ensure that we are better utilizing our sleep?
• Have a regular Sleep time routine - One of the best things you can do for your sleep is making sure you are going to bed and waking up at the same or similar times every day to help regulate your body clock.
• Turn off most of your house lights 2hrs before bed.
• Take a hot shower - Your body needs to drop in temperature to sleep, so the difference from going from the hot shower to cooler air actually helps you fall asleep.
• Stay away from screens 1hr before bed - one hour of iPhone use will delay the onset of melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates sleep cycles, production by 3 hours.
• Aim to sleep for 7- 9 hours per night.
All in all, sleep might seem like such a small thing in our life and something that we don't prioritise, but if we started prioritizing sleep as much as we do nutrition and exercise to our goals, we'd see a substantial improvement in our overall wellbeing. Remember take it day by day, make small changes at a time, like a regular bed time or having that hot shower before bed and before you know it, you'll be able to unlock all the benefits of a good night sleep!
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.