Prioritise Your Sleep Now
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health and wellbeing. Good quality, regular sleep re-energises our brain cells, repairs our skin, maintains productivity and strengthens every major system in our body including our immune, respiratory, endocrine and central nervous systems.
Although getting enough sleep is one of the important things we can do for our physical and mental health, there are several reasons why we don’t often manage it, including poor diet, excessive consumption of stimulants like caffeine and alcohol and increased stress. When we’re stressed, a surge in adrenal hormones such as cortisol is triggered, which is responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ response. When we’re exposed to high levels of cortisol, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and our alertness increases, making it virtually impossible to relax into a deep and restorative sleep. If elevated stress levels continue day after day, it begins a vicious cycle of raised cortisol levels which in turn lead to exhaustion, subpar concentration and focus and over time, weakened immunity amongst other things.
When we’re exposed to high levels of cortisol, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and our alertness increases, making it virtually impossible to relax into a deep and restorative sleep
When it comes to exercise, working out and sleep go hand in hand, with one having a knock-on effect on the other. Sleep gives our bodies time to recover, conserve energy, and repair and build up the muscles worked during the session. When we get enough good quality sleep, the body produces growth hormone which is essential for helping build lean muscle and repair our bodies. Regular exercise can also affect your sleep quality by raising your body temperature by a few degrees. After you’ve worked out, your internal thermostat then drops back to its normal range, which can trigger normal feelings of drowsiness and help you drift off to sleep. As an added bonus exercising outdoors is another way to expose yourself to natural light, a factor that plays important part in helping your body maintain its circadian rhythm and establish a good sleep-wake cycle.
Sleep gives our bodies time to recover, conserve energy, and repair and build up the muscles worked during the session
If you work out but are having trouble losing those last few pounds or adjusting your snacking habits, lack of sleep will inhibit you hugely. That’s because when you’re sleep deprived, the chemicals that signal to your body that you’re full, are thrown off balance, meaning you’re likely to overindulge even when you’ve had enough food to satisfy you. Raised cortisol levels also directly impact your ability to make sensible rational decisions, including those around what to eat. According to a study published in Nature Communications, just one night of impaired sleep is enough to affect your frontal lobe, the area in your brain which controls complex decision making, which means it’s easy to convince yourself to veer off course from your otherwise healthy eating habits.
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While the average amount each person needs each night does depend, everyone should be aiming for between seven and nine hours a night. And while ensuring you get a good amount of sleep is important, the quality of sleep is just as relevant, so it’s essential to avoid anything which could disrupt it, such as excess screen time too close to bed or consumption of stimulants. Sticking to a regular sleep pattern is critical too, as it helps ensure the circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock, stays on track and produces melatonin, the hormone we produce that helps make us sleepy, at the right time. Aim to get into bed and to wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, to ensure this is a habit that sticks.
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