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Fix Your Sleep to Fight Flab

Sleep deprivation affects so many things that we don’t think about. Everything from our muscle-building ability to our alertness and moods. It’s easier to disregard the importance of sleep because we usually just fix it with a coffee. When you start to understand how important sleep is to your body, your strength, your health and your overall wellbeing, you will be more likely to stick to at least 7-9 hours every night. 

Your body produces most of its growth hormones when you’re sleeping. As the name suggests, it is essential for your growth and healing damage done to your cells and tissues when you are training. But, the benefits don’t just come through in bigger or stronger muscles. Your natural growth hormones increase your calcium retention which helps to reduce fat storage, support your immune system and maintain your bone mass. 

Lack of sleep slows your metabolism down which will make it harder to process the energy you consume. And, there are other hormones like ghrelin and leptin, otherwise known as your hunger hormones that get balanced out when you get a good sleep. Leptin is made by your fat cells and it decreases your appetite whereas ghrelin increases your appetite, and plays a big role in your body weight. Without necessary sleep these hormones can’t reset and your ghrelin levels will increase causing greater hunger when you wake up and during the day. 

Multiple studies have shown that people who get less sleep are more likely to become obese and even more likely to develop diabetes because your body can lose its ability to control blood sugar without getting enough sleep.  

Sleep is obviously different for everyone with lifestyle and activity levels playing a big factor. A lot of people think that they just don’t have the time to get that much sleep. It’s recommended that between 7-9 hours is the optimal amount of time to aid in recovery. To change your sleep habits, you need to get yourself out of the mentality that you don’t have time. This is something you need to make time for. So how do we get a better night’s sleep? Here are some tips to get you started:

Stay on schedule
Your body actually loves forming habits, it finds comfort in repetition so if you can go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends it will naturally adapt. Being consistent will reinforce your body's sleep cycle and it’s going to help you get better sleep at night. 
Remember, if you don't fall asleep within 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing. Otherwise you’re training your body to be awake in bed and you’ll find it harder to fall asleep moving forward.  

Watch what you eat and drink
You don’t want to go to bed hungry but you don’t want to go to bed full either. Try having your largest meal for breakfast or lunch that way you can have a lighter dinner and your body has time to digest before bed. Also limit how much you drink before bed, you don’t want to have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom and breaking up your sleep. And definitely no coffee!!

Create a bedtime ritual
Doing the same things to get ready for bed each night is a great way to let your body know that it's time to wind down. Try taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening some relaxing music. Any sort of relaxing activity can help you get a better sleep by making the transition from wide awake to sleepy, easier. 
Some research suggests that watching TV or using electronic devices before bedtime can interfere with your sleep so try not to use your TV or playing candy crush on your iPhone as a part of your bedtime ritual. 

Get comfy
Your bedroom should be just that, you shouldn’t be bringing work to bed. It will keep your brain switched on. Your bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet. If you can, try getting some blackout curtains or using an eye mask. Your mattress and pillow is obviously also going to contribute to a better sleep. Choose what feels most comfortable to you but it could be time to get rid of that pillow you’ve had since university.

Get physical

Regular physical activity is going to help you have a better sleep because you’ll need it to recover. It will also help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime otherwise you can be too pumped up to fall asleep. Morning exercises are a great way to start your day and kick start your metabolism.  

Sometimes it’s hard to switch our brains off. We have a million things that need our attention so our sleep is likely to suffer. If you can start with the basics of getting organised, setting priorities and even using checklists you can limit the amount of stuff you have to think about before bed. 
Smells like lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang activate the relaxation triggers in your brain and can also help you de-stress before bed.  Another way to limit your stress before bed is if you can prepare your outfit or breakfast the night before, that way you take away the stress of the next morning.  
Before bed, write down what's on your mind and then leave it for tomorrow. Everything will still be there when you wake up so give yourself permission to rest today. 

Just breathe
A great way to wind down is one of the simplest. You can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, release endorphins and relax your body ready for sleep just by taking some deep breaths. Inhale slowly and hold for a few seconds then exhale slowly as if you were blowing bubbles. Try to focus on the sound of your breathing so there’s nothing in your head while you do it. Eight deep breaths is a good number to help get you ready for bed. 

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