Sleep is such a big factor that affects every aspect of your health and yet most people don’t get enough of it. It is not only about getting enough that is important but also the quality of your sleep too.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep is important for so many reasons, from improving our memory, regulating hormones, repairing damaged cells and also the growth of new cells.
If you don’t get enough sleep or your not getting good quality sleep, it affects your body in so many ways.
Mentally - it affects your energy, your ability to concentrate, remember things and learn – you will get that brain fog feeling. And then you will then start relying on caffeine and other stimulant to wake you up.
Emotionally - lack of sleep affects your hormones and will make you feel moody and emotional.
Physically – I personally find a bad nights sleep really does show in face, eyes and skin, long term sleep deprivation will increase inflammation in the body which can lead to a number of health related issues.
Sleep and your body fat
Lack of sleep affects your metabolism, your appetite and how much body fat you store. It all comes down to the affects that sleep has on your hormones. Studies have shown that even just 1 night of disrupted or little sleep can impact your metabolic hormone balance.
- Firsly, your blood glucose will increase, this increases insulin in your body which leads to cravings (esp sugar) and hunger. So lack of sleep makes you crave sugar!! Insulin then encourages your body to store fat especially around your stomach.
- Lack of sleep increases cortisol (stress hormone) which also increases insulin.
- Lack of sleep also Increases the production of hormone ghrelin which will make you feel hungry. And also decreases leptin which is a hormone that makes you feel full and satisfied.
Strategies to improve your sleep
- The number one reason why people don’t sleep well comes down to stress and anxiety. Quite often this is caused by work but sometimes other issues in your life as well. My number 1 tip for my clients who suffer with stress is to meditate which will help you deal with your stress. You can meditate before you sleep, Headspace app is great.
- Go to bed earlier and make sure you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. This is esp impt if you want to wake up early in the morning to exercise. If you want to be at the gym at 6am and you are sleeping at 11pm it is going to be very hard to wake up at 5am. You need to calculate back 8 hours and that is the time you sleep.
- Avoid screens 1-2 hours before you sleep. The blue light affects your release of melatonin which is the sleep hormone so maybe read a book instead.
- Exercise daily as this will help sleep better, try to do it in the morning instead of the evening as exercise stimulates your NS making you feel more alert which you don’t really want before you sleep.
- Cut out coffee or at least don’t have any after midday. Eat your dinner 3 hours before bed and don’t make it a heavy meal keep it quite light. If you eat a big meal and hour before you sleep your body will be busy digesting food and that can interfere with your sleep quite a bit.
- Sometimes large meals, alcohol and sleeping medication can help you fall asleep fast but they will not allow you to get quality sleep and your body wont get into that deep stage of sleep where the cellular repair processes happen.
- Focus on your gut health. This may sound strange but there is a connection between your gut health and your sleep. If you gut is in bad shape, you are prone to developing leaky gut or IBS, this is when your gut develops small holes, undigested food particles leaks through these holes into the blood stream, which activates the immune system, long term activation of the immune system in this way will cause stress and increase cortisol in the body which disrupts your sleep.
- There are also herbs that help you to sleep camomile, lemon balm, passionflower, Lavender and I think you can buy all of these as loose leaf herbs just from your local health food store and make them as tea.
- Magnesium is a mineral that has been shown to decrease cortisol levels, help to relax and sleep. Also melatonin is another supplement which is the natural hormone that encourages our body to sleep. But of course with supplements always check with your doc before you take any.