How important is sleep?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could eat a gourmet meal, veg out on the couch for the evening and then settle down in bed and burn all those unwanted calories while comfortably dozing in the land of nod?

While this might seem like nothing more than a fantasy, there is actually a sleep science you should know about that can aid your overall weight loss. Sure, you won’t be able to burn the same number of calories by dreaming about running as you would actually going for a run, but you absolutely can support your existing weight loss plan by practising good sleep habits and knowing how your body uses sleep to regenerate.

Read on to discover more…

Why do we sleep?

Once we are asleep, our bodies do amazing things. Cognitively, our brain’s go through the process of storing memories acquired throughout the day. Tissue throughout your body rejuvenates and repairs, hormones synthesize and adenosine (a chemical produced by the brain’s neurones during the day, causing our feeling of tiredness) have a chance to clear. Fascinatingly, growth hormones are more active when you’re sleeping too, so if you’re trying to build muscle, this is a crucial aspect of your daily routine that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Are we getting enough?

According to studies, a third of Australians reporthaving regular sleep disturbances and waking feeling groggy and tired. Sleep psychologist Professor Dorothy Bruck says that modern life has a profound influence on the quality of our sleep. With our minds and bodies in overdrive throughout the day, many people forget to have that essential downtime before bed to give themselves a chance to settle. Smartphones, TV and late night social media binges can be partly to blame, as well as staying out too late, drinking alcohol and working late. Of course, nobody is saying you shouldn’t have fun! But, if your fun (or work) is interfering with your sleep on a regular basis, your health and appearance can suffer. Not only will your skin, eyes and hair give away your sleep deprivation, but you’ll find you have less energy for the gym, a slower metabolic rate and, consequently, a harder time burning fat and building muscle.

You should also try practising good sleep hygiene as recommended by health professionals worldwide. These techniques include:

  • Giving yourself an hour before bed without technology
  • Eating earlier in the evening rather than later. This gives your body more energy to focus on rejuvenating your muscle tissue and neurones, rather than digesting whatever you’ve eaten 20 minutes before bed.
  • Following a bedtime pattern. For example, aiming to get into bed at roughly the same time every night and rising at the same time each morning.
  • Practising mindfulness and meditation in your evenings to calm your brain after a busy day
  • Giving your bedroom positive vibes so that you enjoy being in there. This might include buying nice new bedding, tidying the clutter, burning scented candles and putting up some nice pictures of friends and family.

Whatever you find works for you, carry on doing it! And, conversely, if you notice anything that hinders your sleep, ditch those bad habits and work to form better ones. 

About the Author

Emma Rowlands is a professional writer with a passion for health and science. Emma has years of experience working in the diet and lifestyle sector including for the UK celebrity diet club The Hairy Bikers Diet Club. Emma is part way through an undergraduate health science degree.

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