Importance of sleep for health

05th June * 3 min read

Guest blog by one of our tutors Steve:

As a lover of sleep I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the benefits of a getting a good amount of zzz’s and get you understanding why it is so important for numerous health reasons.

Do you feel like you have had enough sleep this week? When was the last time you woke up without an alarm? Can you survive the day without that constant urge for caffeine?

Firstly, lets discuss how much sleep you should be getting per night. Research shows that anything between 7 and 9 hours is the optimal amount of shut eye you need to wake up more refreshed and alert for the days obstacles. This may not be breaking news to you but do you know why?

Learning- Adequate sleep has proven to boost the brains ability to take in information on a day to day basis and increase your ability to store it long term. This can also be applied practically with motor skills. So next time you are struggling with a new lift or exercise ask yourself ‘have I had enough sleep and will I have enough sleep afterwards to recover?’

Performance- Hundreds of studies have concluded that less than 8 hours sleep per night can significantly deter physical ability and can decrease time to exhaustion by up to 30 percent. Predictably this massively increases the risk of injury as the bodies systems start to fatigue. Not to mention sleep is a huge contributor to recovery as the body’s systems can regenerate and is a major part of growth hormone production

Attention span- Lack of sleep drastically affects your ability to concentrate and the more time that goes by, these impairments escalate at a ballistic rate. Your performance at work will deteriorate and you are much more likely to crash between the wheel of a car.

Health- Sleep is one of the foundations of health alongside diet and exercise and during our personal training courses we go into the fundamentals of sleep and recovery and how it can impact a training program and the health of your clients. Every major system in our body is affected by sleep. There is a clear indicator that the shorter you sleep, the shorter your life. Here are just a few of the health issues that can arise with a lack of sleep:

  • Metabolism and diabetes can be problematic as the less you sleep the less likely you will want to eat and your body will be less likely to be able to deal with the calories you put in, especially sugars in the blood.
  • Cardiovascular problems can arise as blood pressure rises which puts more stress on the blood vessels and heart.
  • Weight gain due to inconsistencies in leptin and ghrelin hormones causing hunger to increase meaning you can eat up to 300 calories more per day
  • Reproductive systems can be affected as testosterone in men and follicular releasing hormone in women can drop. Combining these can have damaging effects on the ability to reproduce.
  • Immune function will slump as sleep deploys all its weaponry cells to fight against infection and can be up to 70 percent less in a single short night sleep. This also means that cancer cells are increasingly more likely to develop.

This is not an exhaustive list of reasons why we sleep but if you want more information take a look at the book ‘Why we sleep’ by Matthew Walker. We often refer to some of these sleep strategies and justifications during our Personal Trainer Courses. But, in the meantime here are some tips for better sleep:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule making sure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
  • Avoid caffeine, especially later in the day as these can take up to 8 hours to wear off fully
  • Avoid alcohol before bed as it lengthens your light sleep meaning you tend to wake up in the middle of the night
  • Avoid large meals late at night as it can cause indigestion
  • Relax and unwind before bed
  • Have a dark room to assist with your natural body clock and avoid bright lights like phones.

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