Why is sleep so important? Our top tips for a better night’s sleep

Everybody needs their sleep. Sleeping plays a vital role in both our mental and physical well-being. Without it, we would not function. The exact mechanism of sleep and its evolutionary purpose is not fully understood, however recently there has been plenty of  research into the subject. Fundamentally, our sleep is controlled by two things. The first being our natural 24 hour body clock (technically known as our Circadian rhythm) and the second being the influence of environment such as the amount of light. Added to the environmental factors, specifically, our natural body clock is suggested to be controlled by the amount of Adenosine in our brain. The greater the amount, the more ‘tiredness’ we experience. 

What are the risks of sleep deficiency?

Deficient sleep has been linked to multiple mental and physical illnesses. Poor sleep has been shown to increase the risk of developing obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and stroke. Added to this, literature has suggested a link to an increased risk of depression and anxiety. It’s safe to say sleep is very important!

So how much sleep should you aim for? Is this an excuse to sleep all day or lie in all morning? Sadly not…It is recommended that adults over the age of eighteen should get between 7-8 hours of sleep a night and teenagers below this age should get 8-10 hours. 

What are the benefits of sleep for the everyday gym-goer?

As mentioned previously, lots of scientific literature has been published about the effect of sleep on both our mental and physical performance. Overwhelmingly, the science shows that poor or deficient sleep leads to greater risk of mental illness and chronic disease. Individuals who have trouble sleeping have difficulty processing thoughts, problem-solving and could experience a greater number of negative emotions. The resulting lethargy following a bad night’s sleep could be the difference between you smashing a big session or sitting in front of the TV!

Beyond these mental outcomes, deficient sleep can affect your results in the gym. You can put all the hours and effort into lifting and diet but without sleep, your results won’t be optimal. Sleep has an influence on both muscle recovery and muscle mass.

The effect of sleep on muscle growth and weight loss is two-fold. Deep sleep triggers the body to release hormones that control muscle repair and growth. The more optimal the amount of sleep, the greater the repair and potential for muscle mass increase. The indirect mechanism is that sleep directly influences our ‘hunger’ hormones. The longer we are awake without sleep, the higher our Ghrelin hormone. This results in feelings of greater hunger at lower activity levels – a recipe for weight gain! 

Therefore, sleep can supplement an already effective training programme and diet to maximise your results in the gym and ultimately get you to your goal faster!

Our top tips for a better night sleep:

If you are really struggling with getting a better night’s sleep, there are some proposed methods of improving your overall time spent sleeping. Here’s what we suggest!

Tips to improve sleep:

  1. Get into a routine – tap into your Circadian rhythm and try to sleep at the same time during the week, eventually your body will get the memo and sync up with your desired sleeping hours!
  2. As mentioned before, our environment controls our sleep pattern. Furthermore, try to reduce your exposure to light. You can do this by switching your phone to night mode or by turning your phone off an hour before bed. Cutting out caffeine after lunch could also help.

It goes without saying that if you are struggling with extreme sleep deficiency you should contact your doctor.

Here’s to a good nights sleep! It’s more important than you might have thought…


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