How Important is a Good Night’s Sleep?

One of the questions I ask my clients during our introductory assessment is, how many hours of sleep they get each night. But what does sleep have to do with our health and fitness?  A good sleep pattern is as important as a good diet when maintaining a healthy body and mind.

We all know one of the reasons we sleep, and that’s to give our bodies time to repair and rejuvenate. Lack of sleep can lead to an increased risk of heart and kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and also obesity.

The majority of people I talk to exercise to control their weight, According to a report by Chicago University, those with a poor sleep pattern will lose more muscle mass and less fat than those dieters who are well rested. Not good, as it’s our muscle mass that keeps us strong, supports our bone structure and gives us the toned appearance we all long for.

Sleep not only helps our growth and development but is necessary for a heathy hormone balance, especially those hormones that affect our appetite. There are three major players in this group. The hormone ghrelin makes us feel hungry, the hormone leptin makes us feel full. When we are sleep deprived the level of ghrelin goes up and the level of leptin goes down therefore we feel hungrier than if we’d slept well.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced the day after a late night out resulting in very little sleep….head in the fridge and continually snacking, sound familiar?

Insulin, is the other significant hormone, and responsible for regulating glucose/sugar levels, lack of sleep results in higher than normal blood sugar levels, which may increase your risk of diabetes.

So how much is ‘enough sleep’? According to Joe Friel (top U.S. coach) “aim for 6-7 hrs/night, if someone has to use an alarm clock, they haven’t had enough sleep, so go to bed earlier “

With the pressures of everyday living and not enough hours in the day, it’s often difficult to get a good nights sleep. But, you owe it to yourself, add it to your training journal;

‘In bed by 10pm and no use of ‘tablets’ for at least 30 mins before going to sleep.’

I’ve tried ‘ditching’ my phone, iPad and avoiding watching TV an hour before bed and it’s amazing how much faster I go to sleep. If falling asleep is a problem, find a way of relaxing your body and mind when in bed, perhaps some simple meditation, I’ve a great Buddhist practice that never fails.

Go on try it. Put sleep on your agenda, you’ll soon notice a difference, more energy, less stress, appetite under control, as well as looking and feeling great.

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