One of my favourite feelings in the world is collapsing into my bed, physically and mentally exhausted, knowing that I have a long, deep, deserving sleep ahead of me. But that’s not just lazy indulgence, as a good night’s sleep isn’t a passive activity, but rather, I think it’s just as actively valuable as regular exercise and quality nutrition. A good night’s sleep can improve overall health and make every aspect of the following day more productive.
Getting the right quality and amount of sleep:
- Enhances muscular recovery by speeding-up protein synthesis
- Restores and maintains mental alertness (by discharging the brain’s accumulated daily Adenosine build-ups)
- Releases Human Growth Hormone – 60% to 70% of daily HGH secretion takes place when you’re in early sleep, following which the deepest sleep cycles often occur! Poor quality sleep can negatively impact human growth hormone levels
- Restore organs, bones, and tissue; replenishes immune cells; and circulates human growth hormone around the resting body
- Vastly improves the quality of interaction with other people!
2) MY “SLEEP TIGHT” ETHOS…
‘Get more sleep’ is easily said, but I know a lot people who simply can’t fall asleep, and toss and turn for hours on end. For a while, that was me too, stuck in a catch 22 of feeling too tired during the day, going to bed too late and waking up too early in the morning, only to do it all over again. One way I tackled this was by working out on a regular basis which is proven not only to help you fall asleep, but also to improve the quality of that sleep. Everybody is different, so it takes time to figure out what works best for you; I personally prefer a heavy workout early in the morning, a productive day, then a light ‘exercise’ in the late evening (e.g. a power walk which gives my body the final reminder of just how tired it really is!). I wouldn’t recommend doing an intense workout before bed as that energises the body instead of calming it. Afterwards, a relaxing warm bath (I add a lavender bath oil to unwind muscle fatigue) and a mint tea (try to avoid any caffeine before sleep, as it’s a stimulant). Another thing that may help is avoiding oversleeping as it will interrupt your circadian system (‘body clock’), which in turn will set you off later when you need to fall asleep. I’d stay away from sleeping pills as much as possible as they cause the body to develop a dependency, and they don’t get to the root of the real problem anyway, but just mask the symptoms. There are stories of politicians surviving on 4 hours sleep a night, but frankly, that’s unhealthy for anyone in the long run. I’ve always felt 7 hours to be a minimum in order to maximise wellbeing during the day, and I regularly aim for 8 hours. Also a room that’s dark and not too hot helps too. Investing in the largest & highest-quality mattress the room will take can be life-changing, and even fun little apps like the Sleep Cycle alarm clock can help you sleep smarter too!
3) “…AND WHAT IF I DON’T ???”
Not getting enough / high-quality sleep:
- Weakens the immune system
- Renders you less energetic which will lower the quality/intensity of a workout
- Affects the concentration of sugar levels in your blood – they’re likely to become elevated, which can lead to development of a pre-diabetic condition
- Slows the metabolism, leaving it harder to maintain or lose weight
- Induces a sluggish sense
- Can increase appetite (certainly does with me!)
- Makes you moody and loose the motivation to workout or do anything!
To complement recovery as I sleep, I think a ‘complex protein’ (slow release) helps provide the overnight fuel for the best treatment of muscles; a product like Myprotein Bedtime Extreme ticks that box. Hope that helps you to rest up, sleep well, and train harder!
Faya Nilsson, a Swedish personal trainer and fitness blogger (www.fitnessontoast.com) based in London.