Having a bedtime routine has been with many of us from a very early age. There is a reason for this – circadian rhythm. Your body’s master clock controls the production of a hormone called melatonin, your sleep hormone. Going to bed and waking at the same time each day and night, enhances your body’s ability to produce and replenish all the right hormones, to repair and rebuild muscles, tissue and cells and to wake up feeling alert and ready to take on the day!
Sleep deprivation, even short term, can affect your body in so many ways.
EXERCISE – lethargy will affect the intensity of your workouts the next day and your desire to move more. Lack of quality sleep can reduce our cognitive ability and lead to a reduction in your performance.
STRESS – waking during the night elevates your heart rate, increases your stress levels, which of course then elevates cortisol levels. This in turn leads to the hunger hormones been produced and the messages around the body become detrimental to weight loss.
HEALTH – Lack of sleep raises blood pressure, damages the immune system, impairs your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, increases inflammation your risk of chronic illnesses like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
HUNGER – sleep deprivation decreases the hormone leptin, which tells us we are full after eating. This then stimulates the production of ghrelin and we feel hungry, causing us to often over eat the following day or choose the wrong types of food to put on our plate.
So what can you do to improve your sleep and ultimately to help you to have a happier and healthier body?
RHYTHM – give your body a bed time routine. Teach it when it is time to go to sleep and to wake up. Start by setting a strict bed time, ideally between 9.30-10.30pm. One that you stick to every night. Like anything that you do repetitively, it will become a habit and a very healthy one!
REDUCE STRESSORS – going to bed with a head full of “to do lists”, unfinished business, family or financial stress is a sure way to have a poor night’s sleep. You can reduce this by switching off this stimulation an hour before bedtime. This starts with eating at least two hours before bed, finding ways to relax the mind, be it through reading a book or listening to music. My favourite way is by using a gentle foam roller to relax the fascia, then a stretching and breathing routine to re-set and calm the body from the activity in the day.
NUTRITION – Food and drink can act as stimulants so by reducing these in your last meal, you can improve your nights sleep. Reduce caffeine, alcohol, processed and high sugar foods and instead use more calming foods and drinks. Foods that help us to produce sleep inducing hormones, contain anti-oxidants, and therefore reduce inflammation such as almonds, walnuts and nut butters, some fruits, turkey, sweet potatoes, fatty fish, milk, bananas and chamomile tea.
CREATE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT – our sleep hormone will be produced more when we have darkness in a room, no blue lights from electronic devices and even red light from lamps to calm the mind. Use warm baths to calm the body, black out curtains to reduce the light and don’t have the temperature in the bed room too hot.
EMBRACE SUNLIGHT – hormones are amazing and when trained correctly by YOU, your body will be a very happy place to live! Sunlight and even cloudy daylight can stimulate our senses in the morning and tell our body to switch from producing sleep inducing hormones like melatonin to cortisol and even more serotonin, our “happy” hormone. So as soon as you wake to daylight, get up and ideally outside to allow the body to know it is time to move!