Updated: Jan 13, 2019
Following on from the sentiment in a previous blog about the importance of walking and commenting on how age may be trying to destroy several of my assets but that one thing that it has given me is maturity and the ability to have learnt from experience and mistakes. I can wholeheartedly say that the greatest truth that it has taught me is
THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP
I now truly believe that my old belief that SLEEP IS FOR WIMPS is rubbish. If I had an extremely busy schedule ahead with no chance of exercise I would not hesitate to get up at 4:30am and go workout.
This was also always on the back end of living each day to its maximum and burning the candle at the other end. Not Anymore.
If you want my one simple tip for helping achieve Optimum Performance and Optimum Health then increase your quality Sleep.
Research has shown that lack of sleep leads to increased hunger, less activity and more importantly a massive effect on our hormones.
If you follow my posts & Blogs going forward then you will learn the complete in depth story and my own experiences from how I went from a GB Age Group Athlete competing in World Championship events to a broken, incapacitated individual and now back again. The biggest cause and the biggest remedy – SLEEP
Sleep has such a massive effect on hormones and therefore weight loss and Performance that if you are neglecting this one HACK to improve yourself then you are missing a major trick.
Studies have shown that Good Sleepers are
30% More likely to achieve their Goals
40% Less Stressed
Sleep is one of the most important and essential physical processes.Sleep is when our bodies, recover and repair and therefore you can do everything correct to improve your physical goals during the day, you can consume all of the necessary and correct nutrition but if you don’t give your body a chance to use these tools and to repair whilst you are sleeping, then you are wasting a lot of your efforts.
Lack of sleep has been shown in many studies to
Increase Blood Pressure
Increase the risk of heart disease
Lower your metabolism
Lower your immune function
Lower Levels of anabolic hormones including Growth Hormone and Testosterone
Leptin is one of the key hormones that is affected by lack of sleep and is important as it both encourages energy expenditure and suppresses appetite.
Sleep deprivation suppresses Leptin but also on the flipside increases the level of a hormone called Ghrelin which is known as the hunger hormone and increases our cravings. Unfortunately these cravings are also for sugar and fat loaded foods and not a good old plate of protein and vegetables!!
As stated above Poor sleep also affects our release of Growth hormone and Testosterone and causes the release of the stress hormone Cortisol.
In addition it increases blood sugar and therefore the overproduction of Insulin. All of these factors are not what we want!
As a Performance Coach intent on helping my clients reach optimum body composition and optimum Performance, my Goal with all of my advice and programming is to Raise Growth Hormone levels, Limit Cortisol levels, reduce blood sugar levels and increase Insulin sensitivity. Sleep has the adverse effect on every one of these Goals. In fact I would go as far as to say that sleep deprivation ultimately kills us but for the sake of this article before we get too depressed, I will simply reiterate that it undoubtedly turns us into a Fat storing machine with poor physical performance on the road to future health issues.
To drum the point home about the importance of sleep and weight management, one research I read recently from the University of Colorado found that just
“One week of sleeping 5 hours a night led its participants to gain an average of 2 pounds”
And regarding its impact on performance in another study I read recently from the UK Sports Council on 10 Elite Rugby players found that
“Reducing sleep to 3-5 hours a night significantly affected accuracy in tests of sporting skill”
SO HOW DO WE IMPROVE OUR SLEEP?
We use good nutritional practices to increase our Growth Hormone levels which induces sleep and in turn therefore helps us produce more Growth Hormone
We use good nutritional practices to decrease our Cortisol Levels which when running wild disrupts our sleep ….. and leads to further Cortisol release
We use good nutritional practices to balance our blood sugar levels
We use good nutritional practices to support and balance our Nervous system
All of these factors can be taken into account and managed with a very specific personalised Nutrition Plan. If you are interested then please feel free to contact.
However to make this quick and more simple for you here is MY TOP 10 TIPS for better sleep
Supplement your diet with ZMA (Zinc & Magnesium) 30 minutes before bed 20-30mg Zinc and 300-450mg Magnesium should be ideal. The combination of these important minerals along with Vitamin B6 which is included in the ZMA product has been shown to have many important health benefits, especially for those involved with improving physical performance. Numerous studies have also shown much improved sleep from its use. I take it daily and genuinely feel that it has benefit
Supplement your diet with 3-5grams of Glycine before bed Glycine has been shown to stop your nerve cells over firing and provides a calming and balancing effect.
After Dinner go for an Easy, Relaxing 15-20 minute walk to help food digestion and calm your central nervous system. Use this as a trigger to when everything else in your manic day ends and you prepare your body to wind down and sleep
Ensure that your final meal of the day is high in Protein. Protein contains Amino Acids and one of them being Tryptophan helps produce serotonin which, in itself has several major roles in helping us sleep including the conversion to melatonin. The highest content of Tryptophan is found in
Chicken and Turkey
Pork, Beef and Lamb
Eliminate or massively reduce Alcohol before bed. Alcohol may help put you to sleep quickly but ultimately it causes sleep disruption in the second half of our sleep and reduced REM sleep, which is all important as it is the most restorative phase.
Limit your drinking of Coffee and NO Coffee after midday. Replace your Coffee with Green Tea. Although I hear many of you shouting that Green Tea actually has as much caffeine as Coffee. This may or may not be true, considering how much and what brand you drink of each. The big difference however is that Green Tea contains L-Theanine. L-Theanine actually acts as a Cortisol blocker and so all of the unwanted over stimulated effects on your central nervous system that coffee provides are blunted. The high L-Theanine content actually helps make Green Tea a relaxant.
If you love your coffee so much that you just cannot give it up then definitely consider taking an L-Theanine supplement with every drink so that it blunts its negative effects.
Drink a cup of chamomile tea before bed as this has been shown to serve as a mild tranquilizer and sleep inducer. It contains an antioxidant called apigenin which binds to receptors in the brain and decreases anxiety.
After dinner and before you go for a gentle evening stroll - TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Can’t live with them but can’t live without them….that’s how I feel about my phone! Although it has wormed its way to be an integral part of my life I am aware of some of its negativities. For the purpose of this article I will stay with the one fact that many studies have shown that the Blue light emitted from our phones disrupts the production of melatonin and therefore results in a poor quality sleep with very little REM. Just to scare you a little more, low melatonin levels have also been shown to increase your risk of cancer???? In addition trust me that looking at work emails before you try and nod off does not help!!!
Create a nice dark, calming bedroom environment
Try and be in bed ready to sleep not much later than 10pm. Although attaining 8 hours or more of sleep a night is the most important factor it does also make a difference as to what time you fall asleep if you want your sleep to be of the best quality. It has been shown that if you fall asleep after 11pm that you minimise the amount of the all important REM cycles that you achieve as these take place in the earlier part of the night
10 It is so easy to think that looking at all our Social Media outlets and searching around on Google is a relaxing way to end the day ….. BUT IT IS NOT! IT IS NOT HEALTHY!
It is highly important that we initiate a curfew on ourselves to turn off all electronic devices before bed. Ideally this would be anywhere from the worst case 30 minutes to ideally 2 hours before bedtime. The artificial blue light emitted from our phones, iPads and laptops are physiologically and psychologically stimulating. They cause a delay in our bodies internal clock and suppress our natural release of melatonin. Studies have shown using these devices before bed dramatically reduces our quality REM sleep and also decreases our alertness the next day.
As hard as it is we must all try!!