Sleep Your Way to Optimal Health

If you’re at all interested in achieving optimal health or something close to it you’re doing yourself a huge disfavour if you ignore the importance of sleep. While it may feel all mucho to live by the old “I can sleep when I’m dead” mantra, it’s in no way conducive to good health.  In fact I would fairly confidently say that sufficient quality sleep is right at the top of the list for factors that determine your level of health, performance and longevity.

Sleep is when your body recovers. Here are just a few benefits of a good nights sleep;

  •  An optimal functioning immune system. This relates to your immune system being most active during sleep.
  •  Optimal levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) which is released during sleep and plays a crucial role in muscle recovery and cellular repair.
  • Increased alertness and concentration.
  • Improved mood and a more positive outlook on life. And Lets face it no one wants to be around a negative Nancy all day so ill extend this benefit onto being a more attractive human being overall (winning!).
  • Increased productivity.
  • Increased ability to deal with stress.
  • Improved athletic performance. This point deserves a post of its own! Basically all of your anabolic (muscle building/recovery enhancing) hormones like IGF-1, HGH, and testosterone are doing their thang (yes, ‘thang’) during sleep. So for you gym junkies and crossfit enthusiast if you’re not seeing improvements in your physique or performance and everything else is dialled in, hit the ZZZs a bit earlier and reap the benefits.

 Now moving onto a few of the not so peachy consequences of LACK of sleep

  • Decreased insulin sensitivity i.e. a decreased ability to manage blood sugar which sets you up for weight gain and increased risk of chronic lifestyle diseases.
  • Increased catabolism (breakdown of lean muscle mass).
  • Decreased testosterone levels (goodbye muscle growth, fertility and sex drive).
  • Increased systemic inflammation. This is a huge red flag as it’s a fair argument to say that inflammation is the root cause of almost every disease.
  • Decreased concentration and productivity.
  • Poor memory.
  • Lower mood.
  • Brain fog.
  • Dysfunctional hormone levels.

 Now that I’ve scared you all enough that you probably won’t sleep tonight, I feel I should provide you with some constructive recommendations on getting a good nights sleep!

  • Sleep in a pitch black room.
  • Avoid eating large meals too close to bed time. Generally I’d say 1-2 hours before. Its trying to find that balance between not being full and not being hungry. Go with your instincts.
  • Develop a bedtime routine.
  • Get to bed before 10pm (most of your restorative, deep sleep happens in the early hours of the night).
  •  Consider trying a magnesium supplement.
  • Avoid high sugar foods before bed (and in general!)
  • Avoid drinking large amounts of water 1-2 hours before bed.
  • Write down your thoughts/problems 1-2 hours before bedtime. This means you wont be lying their stressing about whether you remembered to return that call, defrost the meat, pay a bill etc.
  • Aim to get to bed at the same time each night. This wont always be realistic but having that goal there and following it majority of the time will have a positive impact on the quantity and quality of your sleep.
  • Avoid looking at your computer screen, mobile phone, iPad etc a few hours before bed. This is a big deal. Artificial light has a huge impact on our circadian rhythm. So much so that I will be doing a post on it separately soon! In the meantime buy yourself a pair of blue light blockers (see below).

    Me in my finest form. Pineapple hair, double specs, no make up, man shirt and blue light blockers. #fashionista
    Me in my finest form. Pineapple hair, double specs, no make up, man shirt and blue light blockers. #fashionista

Ok guys that’s all I’ve got on sleep for now. There’s loads of information out there on improving sleep and for good reason.

Until, next time

-Nat