Today, we are going to take the focus away from how we train and fuel our bodies and hone in on something just as important - our sleep.
So, you may now ask - 'what does sleep have to do with my health?'
Quite a lot, in a lot of different ways. In fact, you could write a volume of books on the topic. Thankfully, I don't have that kind of time on my hands, so yo're safe for now.
Seriously though, your sleeping habits are very important, and if you get them right, or even close, then you will see a change for the better. The question is, though, what is right? And the answer isn't just straightforward. So before we dig a bit deeper into that, we'll take a look at what happens when our sleeping patterns are not quite what they should be.
Tiredness - Stating the obvious! if we don't get the correct amount of sleep, the first knock on effect is tiredness during the day. This can kick in at any time during the day and can leave us feeling very sluggish, lethargic and just not feeling 100%. It can also bring about symptoms like 'brain fog' which affects our memory and concentration levels - not very desirable!
Inflammation - Repeated lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep can lead to chronic inflammation in our joints and muscle cells. as a result, this can lead to various longer term problems, such as joint pain, lack of flexibility, slower recovery from injury and even weight gain.
Cravings - Ever wake up in the morning after a very poor nights sleep, grab a sugary coffee and skip your breakfast because you don't have the energy, time or desire to make it? What do you do next? you go to the nearest shop, buy a sausage roll, a bar of chocolate and a can of fizzy drink. Why? because your body needs energy from somewhere, you have brain fog and this seems like the easiest option.
So lets ask what this has to do with our sleeping pattern? Why do we eat rubbish when we don't sleep well? Why do we have sore knees, elbows, etc, just because we only got 4 hours sleep for the last 3 nights? Hormone response is your answer. And three particular hormones are responsible for the lot.
Ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a hormone that signals hunger. When we are sleep deprived, our body's secretion of ghrelin overrides that of leptin - an appetite supressant - to such an extent, that we eat lots, and lots of anything we can get our hands on. Disaster
Couple that with the steroid hormone, Cortisol, and we have an even bigger problem. Cortisol is a control hormone that acts within our immune system, however, there are problems when the levels are too high. And when are the levels too high? when we are sleep deprived! When the levels of cortisol are higher than normal, our inflammation levels rise, with the result being pains and aches. All sound familiar?
New studies have shown that it doesn't stop there either, and that poor sleep can result in some bigger, more serious problems. Some of the latest results have actually shown evidence that backs up theories that an insufficient sleeping pattern over a period of time has links to some cancers, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and dementia. So lets try and use this as a wake up call (sorry, couldn't resist) to hopefully organise ourselves a little better so that we have enough time to sleep.
how much sleep do we need? That really all depends on our activity levels and our environment, however we would recommend 8 full hours per night, and at the very worst, no less than 7! If that means an hour less on facebook.....or netflix....or whatever you do, then so be it, you will be better off in the long run!
PS. Anyone that would like advice on how to get to sleep in a busy, crowded public place, contact Gerard Magee!