Your eating and exercise are going great but you still are not getting the results you want? You may need to take a look at your sleep.
Good sleep is vital for so many elements of your daily tasks and bodily functions, some you wouldn’t even believe are affected by sleep; good digestion, muscle building and fat loss to name a few.
It’s individual to everyone, but 7 hours of sleep is a minimum needed by most people to prevent your risk of health problems.
Here are some effects you may be feeling from lack of sleep:
Brain fog? When we sleep our experiences get cemented into our memory, interference with this can cause brain fog, lack of alertness or concentration and forget-fullness.
Unhappy? Sleeping produces fresh neurotransmitters and regulates hormones, if interfered with this can cause unhappiness, increased stress, low mood, and possibly an increased risk of depression.
Getting ill? When you don’t get enough sleep your inflammation goes up meaning you have an increased vulnerability to viruses and bacteria. Increased inflammation also increases your risk of heart disease and other inflammation-related diseases.
Struggling with your weight? Poor sleep is linked to excess body fat as it can disrupt appetite regulation, cause you to feel hungrier and lead to higher calorie intake. Higher stress levels can also affect this from lack of sleep.
Workouts feeling hard? Our neurotransmitter levels are refreshed during sleep, and energy draining metabolites are removed. If you're lacking in sleep you may experience decreased central nervous system activity, lower reaction time, low energy and endurance and this all can reduce your desire to exercise too.
Sometimes you may think you are sleeping 7+ hours a night but still experiencing many of the effects above. This may be due to your sleep quality, your body needs between 1.5- 2 hours of deep sleep per night, you can track this using a sleep or exercise tracker. You also may be restless or keep waking which can interrupt sleep patterns. Not getting enough deep sleep can interfere with your melatonin levels and melatonin may help regulate your metabolism.
Here are a few tips for how to prepare for a good night sleep as well as how to get better quality sleep.
Here are a few tips on how to prepare for a good nights sleep:
1. Being awakened by light - This naturally raises cortisol levels, this is a good thing for most people in the morning. The slow rise helps you feel more alert and relaxed.
2. Get moving right away - Movement speeds up the waking process, whereas hitting snooze increases sleep inertia. When it’s time to wake up, sit up and put your feet on the floor.
3. Find the sun (or a light therapy boxy) - Light exposure sets your daily melatonin rhythm (a sleep hormone). This increases during the day and helps your body gear down at bedtime.
4. Alcohol and Caffeine- Drinking or consuming caffeine after 2 pm or having more than 1-2 drinks in the evening can interfere with your sleep.
5. Exercise - Regularly exercising helps to normalise your body clock and helps with hormone levels. However, very intense exercise in the evening may make it harder for you to fall asleep.
6. Dinner - Eating a very big meal just before you go to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep. Have a healthy mix of protein, fats and some slow digesting carbohydrates.
7. Limiting fluids - Drinking too much liquid just before bed can mean you need to go to the toilet frequently which interrupts your sleep.
8. Clear your mind - If you have lots of thoughts, write them out to clear your mind.
9. Get into bed- Go to bed in good time it teaches our body to release calming hormones which will help you fall asleep.
10. Sleep at least 7 hours - Most people need 7-9 hours sleep. If you get far less, don’t stress, just work up slowly by making small changes. Every few minutes can make a big difference.
Tips for getting better quality sleep:
1. Turn off electronics - Don’t look at electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Artificial light interferes with your production of melatonin which ensures deep sleep and may help to regulate metabolism.
2. De-stress- Read, meditate, stretch, do yoga, all of these can release tension and activate chemicals that calm you down before bed.
3. Take a warm bath or shower - Add some magnesium based Epsom salts which is known to help with sleep.
4. Create a relaxing sleep area - Have a quiet bedroom, that’s organised and free from anxiety-producing items.
5. Temperature- Set your room at a good temperature that makes you sleep best, for most people that is 19-20c.
6. Make your room as dark as possible - This minimises melatonin production. Have dark curtains and put your phone face down or have it out the room.
I hope these tips help you, if you are someone who isn’t getting enough sleep and do have some of the effects mentioned above give them a try, remember slow progress is great!
BSc Sports Science, Women’s Fitness Specialist and Personal Trainer