It’s one of the most overlooked parameters for health!
Sleep can literally transform your life if you can get it right consistently, whereas lack thereof can wreak havoc on your day to day operations and your physical and psychological wellbeing.
Firstly, this blog has been inspired by the book, ‘The Sleep Revolution’ by Arianna Huffington and a Google Talk by Shawn Stevenson (links below). It has opened my eyes, which is kind of an oxymoron, to the value of a good quality night’s sleep and how it can impact your life and health so positively or in fact negatively.
I’ve been closely monitoring my quality and quantity of sleep for a few months now and using this to assess how I feel on any given day to make the link between how my sleep is impacting my emotions and potentially fuelling my eating and recovery patterns. There are also other factors that contribute to how you feel like stress, exercise levels and nutrition that play a part so I also tried reducing stress by meditating regularly, reading, eating balanced nutrition and sticking to a regular training regime over this time.
I’ve been using an App called Sleep Cycle (it’s free on the app store) to track my sleep cycle and average quantity of sleep and if this topic interests you I recommend trying it.
What I have found is that when I get a good quality sleep I can perform well in my daily activities on less quantity. However if my sleep is not of a good quality and usually lacking in quantity and I am restless I will find myself tired, lethargic, impatient and less efficient at problem solving and higher thinking.
Start by asking yourself, how important is sleep to you?
Most of us, and this included me until I become more educated on this topic, undervalue sleep. I’m unsure as to why but it might have something to do with our work environments, the pressures of having deadlines and maybe just not knowing the education around how important sleep really is to a long healthy life, free of mental health concerns and disease.
How many of you can say that you get between 7 – 9 hours of sleep a night? If you can, that’s great!
But how many of you that get enough sleep, can say that you wake up in the morning feeling fresh and ready to take on the day with your best foot forward?
Some of you may but I am guessing that the majority of people would be leaning towards the ‘NO’ side of the equation. Am I right?
Yes, quantity is important, but the quality of sleep is also a factor we really need to consider, so let’s talk about that.
Quantity vs. Quality
When we are younger we need more sleep, our cells are turning over in our bodies and brains faster and we require more physical and psychological repair. As we age this starts to slow, thus requiring less sleep.
It’s estimated that having between 7 – 9 hours of sleep is sufficient for the majority of us. The quality of that time can vary, and what does quality actually mean?
Basically ‘quality’ means the excellence in something. A quality sleep = an excellent sleep = free from waking or being woken during the night, free from middle of the night bathroom trips and general restlessness.
Now can you say that you get regular quality sleep?
If sleep is interrupted, it could be disrupting physical and or physiological repair.
The sleep cycle is broken into 5 phases, 2 of which (the Deep and REM sleep phases) are particularly needed for physical and psychological repair and regeneration. It’s interesting to note that the sleep cycle is about 90mins long so you will have at least 5 – 7 of these during one sleep night.
Now think about how interrupted, poor quality and quantity sleep night after night might be affecting your physical and mental health. It might not be the only answer to your health concerns but it might be a good place to start looking at for improving physical and mental health.
Shawn Stevenson, a best-selling author and creator of the Model Health Show explains the adverse effects of sleep deprivation being insulin resistance (which could lead to Type 2 diabetes), immune system failure, obesity and depression.
Shawn has some tips about getting a good quality night’s sleep. Some of these include:
- Get more sunlight throughout the day which affects melatonin production
- Avoid the screen including phones, television and such devices of technology for at least anhour before bed
- Caffeine curfew, for most people this is around 4pm
- Be cool and set up the temperature, if the room is too warm it will affect the sleep cycle
- Go to bed at the right time. Humans get the most significant hormonal secretions andrecovery by sleeping during the hours of 10pm and 2am The rest of these can be found here: http://theshawnstevensonmodel.com/sleep-problems-tips/
He goes on to mention ‘a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that sleep deprivation is directly related to an inability to lose weight. Test subjects were put on the same exercise and diet program, but those who were in the sleep deprivation group (less than 6 hours per night) consistently lost less weight and body fat than the control group who slept for 8+ hours a night.’
My education and information has come from a few different, easy to access sources and I would encourage you to have a look at the resources provided. I hope some of this resonates with you and you can be on your way to valuing sleep for all of its benefits. I hope this can help at least one of you have some control over a higher level of wellbeing.
I’d love to hear how many of you are intrigued by this topic and if you have any question I’d love to find the answer for you and create discussion around this.