All About Sleep
All About Sleep
Sleep is an indicator of our overall health and wellbeing, so if we’re not sleeping well then we’re not at our healthiest. We all know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep, but very few of us actually get those vital 8 hours each night. Work, study, stress and technology can all interfere with our natural sleep cycle leaving us short of a full night’s rest. Our minds and bodies need the appropriate amount of sleep to be able to function at their fullest. Find out if you’re falling short of performing at your peak and how to resolve it.
How much sleep should we be getting?
Sleep varies across age and are impacted by lifestyle and health factors. The National Sleep Foundation has recommended the following:
Age Hours of sleep
0-3 Months 14-17 hours
4-11 Months 12-15 hours
1-2 yrs 11-14 hours
3-5 yrs 10-13 hours
6-13 yrs 9-11 hours
14-17 yrs 8-10 hours
18-25yrs 7-9 hours
26-64 yrs 7-9 hours
65 yrs+ 7-9 hours
While the sleeping range is great there are other factors that play into how much sleep you need. Your health, diet, exercise and gender all play a role in your sleeping patterns. Surprisingly, women sleep more than men, but we sleep lighter and experience more disruptions (especially during menopause and pregnancy!). Men are more likely to have disrupted sleep patterns when they are stressed or worried.
What happens when you don’t sleep enough?
- You eat more. Three-hundred calories more, to be precise. Sleep deprivation increases your ghrelin (hunger hormone) and decreases your leptin (the hormone that registers how full you are). When your stomach is grumbling after a sleepless night you may think this is hunger, when in fact your appetite hormones are just all over the place. When combined with poor willpower, you’re more likely to binge on sugary treats to boost your energy levels and mood.
- You’ll weigh more. Obviously the more you eat the more weight you will put on, however weight gain isn’t limited to your calorie intake. Not enough sleep also causes stress on the body leading to elevated insulin and cortisol levels, triggering your metabolism to slow down and making it impossible for your body to burn fat.
- You’ll get sicker. Not enough shut-eye has been proven to impede the function of your immune system, thus increasing your chances of catching colds and viruses. Harvard researchers found that even just a few hours less of the recommended sleep duration can also increase your risk of heart disease.
- You can lose your memory. Sleep helps your brain consolidate information via REM waves we experience at the beginning of our sleep cycle. A study in sleep found that people’s accuracy on memory tasks dropped by 15% when an all-nighter was pulled. If you’ve underslept try to get in a quick power nap to recover your memory skills.
- It shrinks your brain. Lack of sleep affects your decision making skills and willpower. When you’re not thinking properly you are more likely to give in to temptation and opt for junk food or sugar to keep your brain activity functioning.
- You’ll skip your workouts. We need energy to perform our best at the gym. Without the appropriate sleep, our bodies will not perform at their peak when working out. Lack of sleep also affects your mental state, resulting in poor motivation, poor concentration and low moods, meaning you won’t be interested in exercise.
- You can’t tone. Sleep deprivation leads to low testosterone and growth hormone levels, both of which are important in muscle repair and fat loss. When your muscles aren’t repairing after workouts, muscle toning ceases to happen.
- It makes you moody. Lack of sleep means a lack of energy. When we don’t have energy to undertake our regular tasks we become frustrated with ourselves. When we are in this state we can’t appropriately cope or control our emotions, leading us to respond inaptly to situations.
Tips for a better sleep
- Make your sleep a priority
- Stick to a sleep schedule, even on the weekends
- Exercise daily
- Wind down with a 15-20 minute yoga/yin session right before bed
- Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light
- Make sure your mattress and pillows are suitable for your spine and head
- Steer clear from alcohol and caffeine at least 4 hours before bed
- Turn off all external light (phones, laptops, television) and electronic devices 1 hour before bed.
- Set your phone to aeroplane mode so that it doesn’t buzz throughout the night disturbing you.
- Create a pre-sleep routine to get your body to wind down ready for sleep
- Think about what time you need to get up in the morning and set your bedtime for 7-8 hours beforehand. Leave 30 mins to ‘prep’ for bed too.
- Turn off all lights near your bedroom - a super dark room means a super great sleep.
At the end of the day, the amount of sleep you need is completely individualised. As long as your body and mind wake feeling refreshed and you don’t experience a plateau later on in the day (or any of the above indicators), you can safely assume you’re getting the right amount of zzz’s.