Getting quality sleep is probably the biggest challenge most of us face in our attempts to lose fat, get fit and get healthy.
Most of us think we sleep well, but the reality is that we’ve become accustomed to poor sleep patterns and are no longer in tune with how it feels to sleep consistently well. Bottom line, we’re not giving our bodies the chance they need to repair and rejuvenate that they desperately need!
Our bodies are naturally designed to follow the sun’s cycle, something known as our circadian rhythm. Following our natural sleep/wake cycles (this changes with the seasons), we should be up and raring to go when the sun rises at 6:30am and bedding down as the sun sets and asleep circa 10:30pm. By day, light stimulates cortisol (stress hormone) production and signals time for activity. Come night time, decreasing cortisol should allow for the release of melatonin and an increase in the levels of growth and repair hormones, time to sleep.
When sleep is disrupted during the night (even if only very briefly!), cortisol is produced and growth and repair hormone production is suppressed. Being that growth hormone is crucial for the growth and repair of muscles this is not good news, especially if you exercise.
It doesn’t matter how good your workout was today if you don’t give your body the chance to grow and repair tonight with a night of good quality and uninterrupted sleep! Increased training = increased need for quality sleep.
Sleep also affects metabolism. A single week of poor sleep and our bodies become less efficient at metabolising carbohydrates, we mis-manage insulin and we become primed to store fat. Poor sleep and excess carbohydrates (many peoples reality!) equals the perfect combination for fat storage.
Some simple strategies to improve sleep are:
- Try and get to bed at the same time every night
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night
- Be asleep by 11pm every night
- Make your room dark and quiet
- Avoid caffeine after 4pm.
- Exercise regularly
- Switch off your mobile!
- Turn off TV, wireless and anything else that emits radiation