In a time where working hours are long, technology constantly invades our lives and our time feels stretched to the limits, sleep often quickly gets pushed to bottom of our priority list. With so much focus (and rightly so) on exercising regularly and eating well, we can often forget how important sleep is to our health and how detrimental it can be if we do not regularly get enough.

Having worked as a PT for a decade, I’ve seen first-hand that sleep deprivation is incredibly common with my clients and often one of the main reason why results stall and progress suffers. From client dinners, high stress levels, to needing time to unwind after work there are many reasons why sleep takes a hit. With the average person in the UK only getting around 6.5 hours sleep a night, and when the recommended amount is that elusive 9 hours, it is no wonder why everyone feels a bit grumpy in the morning.

Sleep is ultimately about choice, we need to start deciding to prioritise our sleep, in order to be able to function better and feel happier and healthier. I am certainly not preaching, for years I had to get up at 4:30am and really struggled with getting enough sleep and being able to sleep well, and some days, I still need to crack on this early, but a nap works wonders, especially when you have a young family to contend with, as well as work! Toddler nap time – heaven!

I am going to explore how you can tell if you are being affected by poor quality sleep, look at the effects lack of sleep has on the body and advise on how you can improve your sleep, so that even if you can only able to get 7 hours of sleep, it is the best quality sleep possible.

Are you getting enough and is it high quality sleep?

 

It is completely possible to push on through life in a sleep deprived state and convince yourself that you are perfectly fine and are one of the lucky few who only need 4 hours to function. This might be the case, but just to make sure, we have detailed a number of indicators that can show whether you are suffering from a lack of sleep or whether your sleep is providing you with the rest and recovery your body really needs.

  • Are you regularly ill?

 

Poor sleep increases the bodies level of inflammation due to its effect on hormonal balance. This in turn increases our vulnerability to viruses and bacteria. With the body less able to fight these invaders we are more likely to get sick as well increasing your risk of heart disease and other illness related to high levels of inflammation.

  • You can’t think straight?

 

Poor sleep can affect our ability to focus and concentrate, impair judgement, result in forgetfulness and confusion. This is because the different things we learn and experience throughout the day are processed and filtered when we are sleeping, if this process is disrupted or shortened it can affect our cognitive function.

  • Feeling lows and unhappiness?

There are many reasons why our mood can be low, but if sleep quality is poor our mood can suffer, so it is worth considering if you are feeling unhappy.

While we sleep the body regulates hormone production and produces new neurotransmitters, both important factors to keeping our mood stable and positive. If hormone balance is disrupted it can result in mood swings, increased levels of stress, low moods and can increase the risk of depression.

  • Training hard but you can’t shift the weight?

 

As mentioned, poor sleep affects our hormonal production, it will result in an increased level of cortisol (stress hormone), and with this comes higher levels of inflammation and reduced insulin sensitivity meaning the body is more likely to store extra energy as fat. It also results in decreased levels of leptin and increased levels of grenlin, these hormones regulate appetite and when grenlin is high appetite is high. Therefore, poor sleep increases our appetite and leads to increased cravings for carbs, meaning we are more likely to over eat.

  • Do you have zero energy or motivation?

 

Sleep is the time when the body repairs and recovers from exercise. If you are training hard but not giving the body a chance to restore itself, you will start to inhibit your recovery and your progress. If you find that a session which you could once power through is now feeling really hard or you are losing motivation, consider your sleep and whether you are getting enough. This lack of energy may also be present in everyday life.

Today’s lesson – go to bed! Catch some more zzzzzzzz!