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Sleeping - The Importance of Sleep for Weight Loss

Have you ever skipped a few hours sleep to get everything you need to do done?, Do you get up an hour earlier or work an hour later to finish that project you have a deadline for? We have all done it, but what effects does skimming an hour off your sleep do to your overall health. I know from personal experience, if I don’t get my right quota of sleep I’m sluggish, lack energy, lack concentration and my daily activities that I have to do aren’t done to the best of my own ability, training becomes harder and my body feels like a heavy weight.

Sleeping is a vitally important factor for overall health and weight loss, and in today’s society one that is often neglected. In today’s world we work longer hours, more unsociable hours, have access to our emails 24 hours a day, have to run around after the kids, and spend more time doing things, therefore we look for ways to get everything done that we need to, therefore we get up earlier or stay up later to get these tasks done, leaving less time to rest. Perhaps sleep is seen as something that gets in the way of being awake, active and therefore losing calories or simply be productive.

Think of the human body as an active machine that repairs itself and that process needs time and resource. Sleep provides opportunity for the body to complete a myriad of functions that ultimately repair the body, and fats are one of the resources the body uses to repair itself over night.

So what happens to our body when we sleep, and what happens when we disturb our sleep? Our bodies are designed to wake up and go to sleep with the sun rise and sun set cycles. These promote the release of certain hormones which govern our energy levels and ability to repair. Have you ever been woken up in the night and gone back to sleep then wake up in the morning feeling sleep hungover? This is because you have disturbed that sleep pattern and it feels like you have a hangover and lack energy.

When the sun rises our body responds to this light through photoreceptors in our eye lids which send signals to the brain. The brain responds to this and passes a signal to the adrenal glands which drip release cortisol and adrenaline into the blood stream that speeds up heart rate. Cortisol and adrenaline stay elevated throughout the day, usually dipping between 12.00 and 14.00, and as they begin to dip it allows Human Growth Hormone and melatonin to rise. These hormones are responsible for growth and repair. If we eat a well balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and limit stimulants in the evening such as alcohol, caffeine, computer games, work or vigorous exercise to name a few, these hormones will be at peak in the evening and be at high levels in our blood when we sleep throughout the night. This leads us to having a full nights restorative sleep, where the body will draw on our energy systems to grow and repair.

Unfortunately for many people we are woken up by an alarm clock, hit the snooze button several times, as we are not ready to rise, and our cortisol and adrenaline levels haven’t risen due to our adrenal glands being exhausted. We get up feeling exhausted, tired, sluggish and negative....oh my god another day! Breakfast is usually a coffee and carbohydrates to get a quick pick me up then the day has started. These so called ‘pick me ups’ wear off every few hours therefore coffee and sugar are craved to give us additional energy to keep us ‘jacked up’ and ‘wired’, because of this Human Growth Hormones and melatonin do not rise. Another effect of poor sleep and tiredness is that you will make poor food choices and often over eat for energy.

If you are getting the right amount of sleep then you will start the day feeling fresh, energised and in optimum condition for the day ahead, with a plan to execute and exercise through your weight loss journey. Some top sleeps tips for weight loss include :-

  • Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night

  • Get to bed by 22.30

  • Avoid stimulants after 6pm

  • Minimise exposure to TVs, computers, and other devises before bed

  • Sleep in a room as dark as possible

  • Get a comfy bed

  • Make sure the room is well ventilated

  • Relax before bedtime

So we can see that sleep for overall health and weight loss is vitally important, so make sure you are trying to get the right amount.

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