The Aspect of Health and Fitness You’re Probably Neglecting
When it comes to improving your health, getting fitter, and achieving your body composition goals you will focus on what you eat, your activity levels, and cutting back on drinking and smoking. Rightly so too, these behaviours have a big impact on pretty much everyone’s health, fitness, and body composition. However, there’s probably one aspect of your health and lifestyle that you tend to forget about or sacrifice: your sleep.
Sleep tends to be the last thing people think about when looking to improve their health and fitness, despite it playing a major role in both their mental and physical health, and the everyday decisions they make. Depending on how long you are sleep deprived for, there are physiological and psychological consequences. Sleep deprivation leads to metabolic disturbance and cognitive impairment, which leads to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancers as the rhythm of your body is off.
Sleep is often sacrificed to fit other ‘more urgent’ things into your day, such as watching an extra episode of the Netflix series you’re addicted to, scrolling through social media to keep up to date with the world, or even doing extra work at home to meet a deadline. There are loads of reasons why you might sacrifice your sleep, but you should be prioritising it.
A poor night’s sleep has been found to:
Exaggerate food reward
Increase appetite for high-calorie foods
Compromise control of food intake
Basically, a poor night’s sleep leads to you making poorer food choices and being less in control of your appetite. In fact, in the day following a poor night’s sleep calorie intake has been found to increase by 22%. Poor sleep = poorer food choices and that isn’t great if you’re looking to improve your health, tone up, and get fitter.
The quantity and quality of your sleep also impacts your activity levels. The better you sleep the more motivated you will be to be active; you will feel you can physically push yourself more and sleep gives your body time to recover, conserve energy, and repair and rebuild the muscle worked during exercise. Research shows those who experience poor sleep are less active than those with health sleep cycles and people with certain sleep disorders are not as likely to exercise during the day. A good night’s sleep can help you feel well-rested, more motivated to be active the following day, increase your focus when you are active, reduce how difficult you perceive exercise to be, and help you recover quicker which in-turn results in you being less likely to pick up an injury.
In a nutshell, whether you get a good night’s sleep or not has a massive influence on the food choices you make, how much effort you perceive exercise to be, and how well you recover from daily activity and workouts. So, yeah, it’s a pretty important when it comes to improving your health, getting fitter, and achieving your body composition goals.
What can you do to improve your sleep?
When it comes to improving the quantity and quality of your sleep you should be focusing on the timing (when you go to sleep and wake up), intensity (the quality), and duration (how long you sleep for).
Are you going to bed and waking up within an hour of the same time each day? (Yes, even at weekends!)
How are your energy levels when you wake, 1 hour after waking, 3 hours after waking, 6 hours after waking, and 9 hours after waking?
Are you sleeping for 7.5 to 10 hours each night?
If you answered ‘no’ to the first two questions or you feel tired at various points in the day, it’s a sign you need to get a better night’s sleep and improve your sleep hygiene. Small lifestyle changes can provide you with the biggest benefit when it comes to getting a better night’s sleep. Try to:
Have screen-free time at least one hour before you plan to go to sleep – use this time to relax and even get your thoughts down onto paper
Avoid turning your bedroom into an entertainment centre – treat your bedroom as somewhere to relax and sleep
Create a comfortable bedroom environment – have comfortable a mattress and pillows and make sure the room you sleep in is dark and ~18 degrees
Relax your mind - write a to do list for the next day, write down thoughts or worries that are occupying your mind
Stick to a good bedtime routine – a relaxing bath or shower (warm but not too hot), reading, and calming music can all be part o
Get as much daylight as possible – the primary synchroniser for you sleep is the timing of light going into your eyes.
Have a regular bedtime and wake up time
Take a nap if you need to – if you are lucky enough to fit a daytime nap into your day make sure it’s no more than 20 minutes and ideally between noon and 4pm (not too close to bedtime). Set an alarm to make sure the nap is no longer than 20 minutes.
Looking for more tips to improve your health, get fitter, tone up and/or build muscle?
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