Sleep plays an absolutely pivotal role in your health. Whether your goal is to lose weight, run faster, live longer or perform better; getting enough sleep can often be the difference between success and failure. Like most things in life how much sleep you need can be very individual, however many people mistake the habits that they have created as being what they actually need. People who claim to be night owls have only become night owls because they have regularly trained their body to stay up later. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean that it is best for your health. The number of hour’s sleep that you need may be variable but what is not up for debate is the quality of the sleep required to promote optimal health.
Quality sleep would mean sleeping from around 10.30pm and getting a good solid minimum of 6 hours undisturbed sleep. If you are not getting this you are falling short of what your body requires.
If you struggle to get to sleep some nights or you regularly wake up between 1pm-4pm this is a definite sign that something is out of balance that will likely lead to health problems at some point down the line.
If your day is normally jam packed with tasks and activities and full of stress and then you spend your evenings watching TV is it any wonder you then have difficulties getting a good night’s sleep? Your body will be chronically releasing too much adrenaline which has a cascading effect on many other hormones all of which disturb the sleep/wake cycle
Achieving a good night sleep comes down to some good planning. Here is a plan we regularly prescribe to our clients to help them achieve a better quality of sleep.
Avoid Sugar (especially at night)
If you look at what sugars roles are in the body you will quickly come to realise why eating sugar at night is not a good idea. In times of stress your body will release sugar into the blood stream to prepare the body for fight or flight. Sugar is a turbo fuel designed to be used in times of high levels of activity. So when you eat a bar of chocolate or bowl of ice cream in the evening the rush of sugar into your bloodstream is saying to the body to get ready to fight or flight, just when the signals for winding down should be getting released. This can be one of the reasons why you struggle getting off to sleep or have an agitated sleep
Go to your cave
I recently heard a sleep specialist talk on how you should view your bedroom as your cave, this is where you go to sleep. Your bedroom should be kept dark and reasonably warm TV’s in your bedroom are a big no-no, as are phones and laptops. The sleep specialist recommends you make your cave as comfortable aim to make your bedroom a place that you love to be in and not another stress inducing environment like most other rooms we spend our day in.
Limit screen time in the evening
So by screen time we mean TV’s, phones, tablets and computers. We have sensors in our eyes that respond to light and darkness. These sensors send signals to the brain to release either the awakening hormone serotonin or the sleepy hormone melatonin. So when you have bright LED lights shining in your eyes at night your body won’t release melatonin stopping you from going into the sleep cycle at the appropriate times.
Spend time winding down
Again to help with the release of melatonin, spend time each night ‘winding down’; listen to relaxing music, go for a nice warm bath, read a book, (nothing to exhilarating as this will excite the brain more) or do some light stretching exercises .
Find 10-15 minutes each day to meditate, this can be used as a way to rinse the brain out and find some peace and stillness away from the continuous inner dialogue we have with ourselves. There are numerous studies that are heralding the benefits of meditating to relieve insomnia and people who meditate have been reported to achieve better sleep than non-meditators.
Make a list
There is a part of the process in your sleeping cycle where the brain processes your thoughts and emotions that you have had that day. If you have some incomplete tasks or unresolved worries then subconsciously you may not be able to fully switch off and truly rest. You can often overcome this by setting aside 10-15 minutes in the evenings to process everything that has happened that day and spend some time thinking of some of the resolutions to any problems that you may be having. Also creating a list of tasks that need done can stop you from overthinking about what is going to happen the next day. When you have finished this exercise be sure that you consciously set the pen and paper down and acknowledge the fact that you have signed of these jobs for the day and that anything that needs done out with this list is not urgent or important and can be looked at a later date.
Ditch the drinks
Ok this is a broad heading, so let’s be more specific:
Avoid all caffeine after 1pm (coffee, teas and fizzy drink). Caffeine has approximately 6-8 hour shelf life so if you have caffeine too late in the day it will have a negative effect on your sleep.
Alcohol should also be avoided in the evening as drinking alcohol has been shown to cause a more restless sleep. Alcohol may help you get off to sleep but overall it will have a negative effect on your sleep quality making you feel more tired the following day.
Also aim to meet your hydration levels by 7pm, as this will help you avoid going to bed on a full bladder which will reduce the likelihood of having to go to the toilet during the night.
If you are drinking in the evenings camomile tea has been shown to have relaxing qualities so may be a more beneficial drink to have in the evening
Stick to a routine
If you can roughly go to bed and get up at the same time every day your body will settle into a nice rhythm and you should start to get the ‘sleepy’ signals at the same time each night and the ‘wake up’ signals around the same time in the morning .
So give it some thought, is your sleeping pattern the elephant in the room that is stopping you from achieving your goals? Give it some honest thought and if the answer is yes then make sure you try implementing the strategies described above to break through any barriers you may be experiencing with your health and fitness
Remember your health is a big melting pot of many ingredients and sleep is definitely a major ingredient in that mix
Happy sleeping !!
Ps. here is what one of our clients is saying about us
I’d always enjoyed going to the gym, but found that I was not getting the results I desired. I was also keen to get into running, and to train as effectively as possible. I wanted a program that would be sustainable, without restrictive dietary advice that I know I would not be able to adhere to in the long term. I wanted exercises that would be effective but not massively time-consuming, as I work as a doctor and my hours are long and unpredictable.
Since starting the programme I have noticed a significant change in my body shape. I was lucky that I didn’t have a significant amount of weight to lose, my focus was very much on increasing my fitness and strength. I have had 6 sessions and worked at the exercises independently the rest of the time. Friends and family have all commented on my figure, and all the reports have been positive. Regarding my fitness, I can comfortably run the distance I set out to achieve.
The best thing about having a trainer is having a point of contact to call on for advice, and for exercises that are tailored exactly to my needs.
If you have ever considered a personal trainer, I could not recommend Get Results Fitness highly enough – you won’t regret it.
– Jennifer Smith