You will pay for someone to design a decent training programme for you, maybe even train you, maybe they will even help you fix your nutrition as well, or you get someone else to do it; but who can you pay to fix your sleep?
More often than not nowadays, we look for the easy way out. We don’t rely on ourselves enough to fix what we have broken, let me repeat that, what WE have broken! So we pay someone else to do it. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, because I for one would be out of a job if it wasn’t for these people needing help. What I’m trying to get at here is that sometimes there is no other option but to take matters into our own hands and hold ourselves accountable for once.
Use the skills you’ve learnt through having a trainer push you through a gym session or class, having someone give you tasks to complete each week, whether that be a nutritionist making sure you’re hitting your water intake every day, for example. Change is down to consistency, we know that by now but still so many of us look for the quick-fix. There is none! More often than not they set us back a pace or ten if nothing else.
I’m rambling, back to the point! Sleep… Surely we can control our own sleep. What we do throughout the day has an effect on us getting a good quality, seven + hours sleep or not. There are a few things we can do to help us with this, but first I want to explain why it is so important that we take these into account-especially when we are on a quest to improve our body composition/lose fat.
-Most research findings support the claim that the duration of sleep we have has an effect on weight gain.
There is absolutely no point having a fantastic training & nutrition plan if you leave out sleep. These three work together & emphasis should be spread equally amongst them.
-So, we all have a circadian rhythm which is basically an internal 24-hour “clock”. This plays a critical role in when we sleep and when we wake up. Other factors affect this as well of course.
-Exposure to light and dark can sway our daily rhythm.
-Lots of hormones have regular daily cycles like sleep, in order for them to function optimally.
-Closing our eyes makes it easier to sleep as it blocks out visual stimulation, but doesn’t necessarily have to happen.
If you are overweight, take a look at your sleeping habits. Do you get more than 4 hours sleep regularly? If not, why?
Regularly sleeping less than 4 hours a night has been shown to have a negative effect on weight loss. There’s a few different theories as to why this is & I’ll mention a few:
- Leptin. This is the hormone made by the fat cells that helps inhibit hunger. When you don’t get enough sleep, your leptin is lowered therefore it cannot do its job of preventing the feeling of hunger.
- Ghrelin. This is the hormone made & released mainly in the stomach that stimulates appetite. Lack of sleep leads to an increase in ghrelin, causing food intake to also increase as a result. High levels of ghrelin also promotes fat storage.
- Energy in the gym. If you’ve had a shitty night’s sleep, you know how it feels to try and drag yourself out of bed for that early morning cardio, or worse again trying to hit a heavy weights session in the gym after work, when you can barely stay awake. It’s not just your diet that is affected by lack of sleep, your training is the obvious factor that will suffer.
Now on to how we can change our habits for the better to improve our quality of sleep. Below are a few things you can do to slowly improve how well you sleep; take 1 point and work on it until it becomes 2nd nature – don’t try the all or nothing approach as we all know how that ends!
- Keep your room dark at night.
- Cut caffeine from your diet after mid-afternoon, have your last coffee around 2-3pm.
- Switch off all phones/TVs/laptops/iPads etc at least 30 mins before bed. The light from these devices has a negative effect on your sleep.
- Exercise in the evening before bed, whether that is going to the gym, stretching or just taking the dog for a walk, it all helps.
- Use the 30 mins electronics-free before bed to have some ‘me-time’. This can mean, having a bath, stretching, reading or pampering yourself e.g., painting your nails.
- Keep a sleep diary. We know how important it is to keep a food diary when we are trying to lose weight, so it can be just as beneficial to keep a sleep diary. This way you can correlate both when looking back at a day you had a particularly bad sleep & checking if it was food related, maybe you ate later than you usually would, you may have had something out of the ordinary or maybe it was stress related, was there something important happening in work at this time, were you under pressure etc.? These are the type of things you have to look at.
Don’t use the excuse that you have too much on, that you are too busy to sleep any earlier. You choose to stay up late, to watch an extra episode (or series!) on Netflix, to like and share things on Facebook, to watch funny videos on YouTube, to scroll through Instagram – not realizing how you ended up on so and so’s wife’s sister’s cousin’s page on a picture from 2008!! These are the things you replace with one of the above points until you nail it day in & day out without realizing, then move on to the next one.
If you are serious enough about getting fitter/leaner/healthier & you already focus on your nutrition & training, then now is the time to put an equal focus on your sleep. It may seem silly to you but it may also be the one thing missing.