If You Don’t Snooze You Lose!
Sleep, Exercise and Wellbeing.
Have you ever gone to bed at night and woken up in the morning? That is called sleep. 100 in a 100 of us will have done it at some point. Yet it is often overlooked despite it playing a vital role in our health and fitness.
I don’t mean to alarm anyone but it can have serious implications. Sleep deprivation increases your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease. Unfortunate victims like sleep apnea patients who have troubles staying asleep can end up with detrimental impact on their hearts. Therefore it may require more prioritisation, analysis and strategy in tackling it and improving our wellbeing.
Sleeping like a baby may be a myth for many sleep deprived parents but the younger our little ones are the longer they sleep in total. Newborns may sleep close to 20 hours a day. By adulthood it reduces with the general recommendation of 7-9 hours sleep being optimal each night, whilst the over 65s need 7-8 hours.
There are 4 stages to a sleep cycle, three are Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and one Rapid Eye Movement (REM):
1. Drowsiness - the first few minutes as our muscle activity settles down (NREM1)
2. Light Sleep - breathing slows and body temperature decreases (NREM2)
3. Deep Sleep – the good stuff, true relaxation, blood pressure and heart rate drops (NREM3)
4. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) - where dreaming occurs and just before we wake up.
This cycle may be repeated through the night.
Let us look at what can impair it and what can improve it:
Routine is important and not just for those little babies. The more consistency we have the better quality sleep we will experience. For anyone that has experienced jet lag will testify to the negative impact to a messed up sleep pattern. In an ideal world every day would be identical to maximise the value of your snooze.
Calming Down Before Bedtime
Even a bedtime ritual can improve your sleep. Many of us are guilty of having our phones or tablets in bed. Leave them in a different room. Read a book. Yoga or meditation can help us unwind pre bedtime and help us relax. Some people will find that higher intensity exercise late in the day may get them too hyped so adjust as necessary. Limiting stress can lead to a good night’s sleep and vice versa.
Your surroundings are important. Sleeping in a comfortable bed with a good mattress and pillows is a great investment. Keeping the sound down, the lights down and the temperature cool will be beneficial. Keeping cool at night can reduce your cortisol levels. If you have succumbed to too much heat in the bedroom your growth hormone levels will be decreased which can inversely impact tissue repair and fat burn. Healthy human growth hormone levels ensure a boosted immune system as well as lowering the risk of heart disease.
Nutrition and Sleep
Many of us have stumbled in after big night out and fallen asleep easily but then woken up way too early struggling to nod off again. Alcohol can lead to a disturbed night’s sleep particularly in the second half of a night, reducing REM part of the cycle. Caffeine is also a common detrimental substance as being too stimulated works against us. A big meal can also make the body work hard to digest in the night and increase the body temperature. On the other hand, a high glycaemic meal will be processed quickly and let you get on with kipping. Protein foods like chicken, fish, eggs and milk, pumpkin seeds, beans or leafy green veg can improve sleep. Tart cherry juice can also help melatonin synthesis, which in turn can aid antiinflammatory benefits and muscle soreness reduction. Kiwi fruits, with their serotonin and antioxidant Vitamins C and E are also a positive contributor do a decent dose of shuteye.
Athletes aim to eat, sleep and breathe their lifestyles. A quality night’s sleep is key for athletes in their recovery from training as it reduces fatigue and chance of injury. It will also aid performance the following day. We’ve already seen the impact on hormones with good sleep but there are other advantages too. Cognitive function will improve with better reaction times and decision making. Motor learning improves, concertation sharpens and memory will be better, enhancing any walk of life. Your overall energy will be boosted too.
Measure Your Sleep
The last suggestion would be to get a sleep tracker. Some of your watches already contain this function but it can help you measure and record your sleep patterns and thus put you on the road to improvement.
Above are many tips and considerations to help you sleep better. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this article and if you’ve found it dull, maybe read it again before bedtime… it will help you sleep.
- Vojin Soskic
Health & Fitness Manager
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