Sleep – Are You Getting Enough

At Optimum3 it’s about more than just getting sweaty in the gym or eating loads of salad. It’s about an ethos and approach that looks at everything that can affect your results. Whether you have a goal of weight loss, fat loss or muscle gain there can be different factors to consider that will make a big difference. One being sleep! Let’s take a look.

So in this blog we’re going to look at sleep, and how getting too little sleep can have a big impact on not only our goals but our overall health too. At Optimum3 we talk to our clients about long term sustainable lifestyle choices. We’re serious about results and ones that have a positive life changing impact. With sleep being the topic today let’s get stuck in.

Are you getting enough sleep?

It is said that us humans should spend a third of our lives sleeping, but we don’t. 70% of people in this country think they don’t get enough sleep with 40% saying they get less than 6 hours. It’s just not enough, and that puts us in a category of one of the most sleep deprived countries in the world. Sleep has progressively fallen over the last few decades by 1-2 hours. Now I know some people function better than others on less sleep, that’s cool but in my opinion we should still be aiming for the ideal target. Main reason being we might feel ok but we don’t really know the impact it’s having on hormones and other aspects of the body.

The amount of sleep is crucial to many things yet remains, for me, one of the most underrated things, along with nutrition, when it comes to looking after our health. Specifically relating to our goals, poor sleep most definitely has an impact on the success of weight loss and fat loss as well as growing muscle and muscle recovery. But it also has a much bigger effect detrimentally to our overall health that I think a lot of people just aren’t aware of. We take it for granted.

Sleep deprivation is heavily linked to disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes especially. Sleep deprivation can increase glucose levels in the body. This has a significant knock on effect as this can lead to feeling hungry in turn consuming more calories as well as an increased craving for sugary or starchy foods, resulting in weight gain. And here lies the strong link to type 2 diabetes. It can also alter our hormones, particularly the increase of our cortisol hormone levels (our stress hormone). Now one other thing that a lack of sleep can cause is an altering of our gut bacteria. Our gut bacteria plays a huge role in helping our bodies to function optimally, when these alter so does the way our body functions. Our gut bacteria are responsible for assisting with the absorption of nutrients and also calories. Which means if the gut bacteria is negatively affected our bodies are less able to work optimally. Calorie absorption is higher when sleep deprived. What this means is that you could eat the same foods you normally would but your body is going to absorb more calories from that food that it normally would when not in a state of sleep deprivation. Gut bacteria also has a responsibility of helping with immune health. Yep, that’s right, low on sleep – lower immune health. Hence why some people will find themselves picking up things like colds, getting spots, cold sores or ulcers. All this has a knock on effect, as mentioned with weight gain and higher levels of obesity.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

With our country being one of most sleep deprived nations in the world in mind, lets take a look at some of the possible reasons we’re not sleeping properly.

Technology – How many of us take our electronic devices to bed with us? Guilty your honour! Technology has changed so much, which is a reason alone for increases in obesity levels, but that one is for another day, I won’t digress. The internet, mobile phones, tablets, social media, they’ve all given us the ability to become addicted and not switch off from them. Everything is immediate. Music & films are a download away, shopping online we can get it the next day. Technology is addictive, lets be more conscious of our behaviour around it, especially in relation to sleep. Switch it off, don’t take it to the bedroom, be stricter and break the bad habit.

Stress – This can be a difficult nut to crack but can be cracked. Stress comes from many different areas of life. Whether it be work related, financial worries, expectations from others, the list goes on. The main thing here is that we again try to be more conscious and aware of what our stress triggers are. A read of our Stress and Your Health blog might be beneficial for this one, as we outline some tips on reducing stress. Ultimately, if we suffer from stress induced insomnia we have to look at reducing it. Not just for sleep but as you’ll read in the stress and your health blog, for overall health and body goals too. They all interlink.

A general busy mind – Some people I speak to struggle sleeping due to a busy mind and struggling to switch off. A couple of tips I recommend for this cause of insomnia is 1) Meditation. Don’t freak out if that sounds a bit hippy for you, you don’t have to find a grass field or a retreat, you can do it at home in a quiet space. In simple terms meditation allows you to process your thoughts. 2) Write things down before you go to bed. Any thoughts you have positive or negative, jobs to do the next day, whatever it may be get it written down.

Caffeine and Alcohol – Caffeine, especially for those with a sensitivity may not be the best idea. Take it out of the equation to see if it makes a difference. Alcohol, although can help us get to sleep, generally results in poor sleep quality in terms of our sleep cycles. We have 4 stages of sleep and go through a full cycle in 90 minutes, roughly 5-6 times a night, if you sleep well. If you don’t sleep well and wake in the night for example you obviously have a broken sleep cycle. Alcohol and caffeine can both play a role in broken sleep cycles.

Genetics – Genetics link to everything in our body but one thing that is interesting is that our genes/DNA determine certain things such as whether we’re more of a morning person or not. I train a lot of people who find it harder to train in the morning and get better results training in the evening and vice versa.

There are other ways to tackle sleep deprivation as a result of insomnia. Sleeping pills are addictive and you can build up an intolerance resulting in the need for higher dosages. They don’t address the route cause of the insomnia either. Always consult your GP when considering this option. One natural way would be to supplement with Magnesium as this calms the sympathetic nervous system. Again, any supplementation should be done so under the consultation of a relevant practitioner.

As seen on the BBC One programme – The truth about sleep, a good way to test if you are sleep deprived is to go to sleep in the afternoon and use the spoon test. You need a metal spoon, a metal tray and a clock/timer. You hold the spoon in your hand by your side near the edge of the bed and when you fall asleep and relax the spoon drops on the tray and wakes you up. This test is designed to look at how quickly you fall asleep. If you fall asleep within 10 minutes it’s an indication you’re sleep deprived. If you fall asleep within 5 minutes it’s an indication you’re extremely sleep deprived.

So, to conclude, sleep is of massive importance. It impacts us in very significant ways with alterations to hormones and gut bacteria for example. If you own or manage a business and want to improve sickness and productivity I would strongly recommend looking at some holistic approaches regarding sleep and stress to improve this. For individuals try some of the suggestions above.

Live Well!

James

Author James Brereton

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