Are you getting enough sleep?

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Chances are if you’re struggling to wake up in the morning, need more than one alarm or are a constant snoozer that you’re not getting the amount of sleep your body needs.

When you are getting enough sleep you shouldn’t need an alarm, you should wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day; naturally.

So why do I care about your sleeping patterns? Put simply not sleeping enough might be the reason you’re NOT LOSING WEIGHT.

Sleep Helps Build Muscle

Image: Sleeping Woman

One of the main functions of sleep is to give your body the chance to restore, repair and produce growth hormones. So while you’re sleeping all the little tears in your muscles (resistance and strength training) will be healing up leaving you with a stronger muscle. Your brain recharges while you sleep so giving that huge organ a rest enables you to meet the next day in a more alert state. There’s a reason that in any fitness plan rest and recovery are built right in!

What happens to your body when you lack sleep?

You only have to Google ‘lack of sleep’ to get some pretty terrifying results, not getting enough sleep effects your brain, your body, your digestive system, your mood, your ability to retain information and your reflexes. And that’s just a brief list – don’t forget it is a well-known torture technique to deprive captives of sleep – why would you want to torture yourself?

When you reach deep sleep your body releases a hormone called Leptin – this clever little hormone tells your brain that you’ve eaten enough, so if you’re lacking in sleep your brain won’t receive the message that you’re full and consequently you will end up eating more.

In case this wasn’t bad enough lack of sleep also causes your body to release another hormone, Ghrelin (it sounds evil doesn’t it?) and this one stimulates your appetite! So you’re tired, your brain is still telling you it’s hungry (because it hasn’t received the I’m satisfied message via Leptin) and BOOM Ghrelin is stimulating your appetite telling you to ‘eat more eat more!’ It is no wonder that there are several studies that have found connections between lack of sleep and weight gain.

In other words your body is shouting at you “we’re not going to sleep? Then lets eat!”

When you don’t get enough sleep your body increases its production of the stress hormone cortisol – so your body literally gets stressed out by not sleeping. If you’re sleep deprived your body also produces higher levels of insulin after you eat which promotes fat storage – so you become more efficient at fat-storing.

It can be reversed

BUT get enough sleep and you’ll feel less stressed, you’ll release Leptin so your brain will receive the correct message about being full AND Ghrelin won’t be released so your appetite will be normal rather than massively stimulated!

Tips on getting your 8-10 hours:

  • No screens an hour before bed (yes this includes your smart phone!) turn it off, listen to gentle music, white noise, or read a real book.
  • Snack smart – it can be tempting to reach for the biscuit tin just before bed but try to avoid eating anything 2-3 hours before sleeptime. If your body is digesting something it isn’t properly resting. And anything it’s going to burn (while you sleep) will be the last thing you put in your mouth – rather than the fat stored in your body
  • Back to basics – just like the kids – have a regular bedtime that you stick to, everyday. Have a warm bath before bed (not a shower), drink a warm drink and settle down in a darkened room.
  • No caffeine after 6pm, try switching to decaffeinated if you absolutely MUST have that last cup of coffee. You can warm some freshly juiced Apples with a cinnamon stick and chill out the natural way.
  • If you have apps or a fitness tracker that you wear then this can be a great way of tracking how good a night’s sleep you’re getting and if you find you still aren’t getting enough can help you to pinpoint what might be keeping you counting sheep (instead of dreaming of them).
  • If 8-10 hours per night is too much – can you fit in a power nap somewhere in the day? Even 30 minutes can help to refresh and again there are apps that track your levels of sleep and wake you up before you reach deep sleep. I like Power Nap by Northcube.

If you’re still dubious about how awesome sleep is (and how overrated staying up and working into the wee hours) then watch this TED Talk: