In this modern world of faster, busier and more stressful lives, the first thing that we seem to sacrifice is our quantity and quality of sleep. In a bid to fit more and more into our daily lives we hit a point where there is just not enough time to complete everything we need to do in our waking hours. To overcome this, the fallback solution is to lengthen our day by increasing the time we stay awake and shorten the amount of time we give ourselves to actually sleep.
Even if we structure enough hours to give us a healthy night’s sleep, this can result in poor quality and disrupted sleep. This disruption is caused by many things, but predominantly it is stress related or because our brain is in a hyper-stimulated state. This state can be attributed to exposure to too much artificial light, especially from TV, computer and smartphone use. This all adds to stress and sleeping problems.
The fact is we often tend to view sleep as a disposable commodity and for many a healthy night’s sleep is even viewed as some kind of luxury that can only be enjoyed every so often. Just as we can’t survive for an extended period of time without oxygen, water and food, nor can the body properly function without good quality and adequate sleep. Ask somebody to significantly reduce their intake of fluids and food for an extended period of time and they quite rightly will be very reluctant! However, we constantly deprive ourselves of sleep without too much of a second thought. The problem is we often don’t realize the damage that lack of sleeping is doing to us because it is not immediately obvious. The more obvious signs that present themselves such as drowsiness and lack of energy are quite often overcome by using stimulants such as caffeine.
What is happening if we don’t get a good night’s sleep to our overall health and wellbeing?
To start with reduced sleep means our body is unable to cope with even low levels of oxidative stress which over time will speed up the ageing process and measurable neurological decline. Put simply we will look and feel older and our overall healthy brain function will be significantly reduced. Our Circadian rhythm which governs our natural cycle of sleep, wakefulness and hunger also triggers the release and flow of hormones that support a healthily functioning body. When we disrupt sleep we disrupt the rhythm as a whole and this results in irregular hunger patterns and hormone flow. Lack of sleep and higher stress levels increases cortisol production ( The Stress Hormone ) and Insulin production. The cumulative effect is we eat more due to stress induced cravings and then store these calories as fat due to our raised Insulin.
During a good night’s sleep elevated levels of testosterone, human growth hormone and other adaptive hormones course through the body. They provide the means for our organs to repair and our muscles to rebuild and strengthen. So even if we train hard, follow up with good nutrition our results and gains will be significantly impaired without the restorative effects of a good nights sleep. Sleep also causes our white blood cells to step up a notch and support our immune function to overcome illness, bacteria, and disease. The brain also receives some serious benefits in terms of increased cognitive function, improved problem solving and its ability to organize short and long term memory. A healthy night of sleep can literally be a makeover and pamper for our ever increasingly overloaded brains.
So, if you are wanting optimal health, fitness and wellbeing it’s time to stop overlooking the importance and impact of a good nights rest. Start to organize a schedule that supports a good night’s sleep of between 7 to 9 hours during the natural hours of darkness. Avoid stimulants such as coffee and artificial light in the evenings. Support your training and nutrition by tapping into sleeps natural ability to raise Testosterone and other hormones for muscle repair, recovery and growth. Lower your body fat by reducing insulin levels and fat storage as a result of sleep deprivation. Sleep soundly safe in the knowledge that you really are cultivating a healthy body and mind. Turn off your mind and rest tonight.