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Why sleep is important for your health

Tory Fox-Hill

Posted on July 16 2018

bedtime-clock

We all work hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle and eat well, yet we may be making it more difficult for ourselves to stick to our goals by missing out on one vital ingredient: sleep.

As any working mum to an almost three year old will tell you, I am frequently running on less than eight hours sleep (eight hours - what a dream!) so know exactly how it feels to be constantly tired.

I’m always promising myself to get more sleep and at the bottom of this blog I share what I’m trying to make sure I get more snooze time. What is incredible though is how important sleep is for you and your body and how much a lack of sleep is linked to our diet and fitness goals.

Are you getting enough sleep?

Here are five reasons why sleep is so important:

A lack of sleep can affect your weight loss

According to the NHS, “studies have shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours a day tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of becoming obese than those who get 7 hours of slumber.

It's believed to be because sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone)”.

So, the less sleep you get the hungrier you feel during the day because your body hasn’t had the time it needs to rest and replenish.

Not getting enough sleep can affect your mental health

As we all know, #adulting is hard work sometimes and we make it worse for ourselves if we don’t get enough sleep.

Feeling irritable and angry are standard responses to a lack of sleep and many of us have experienced times when we are snappy with our family and friends.

We’ve all had those moments where we want to stamp our feet and tantrum like a two year old when we’re tired. Or is that just me? A lack of sleep affects your emotions and your decision making too, so important choices can feel overwhelming. 

Tiredness can affect your skin

Your skin active repairs itself when you are asleep and not getting enough rest can disrupt this process. According to a study in the USA, “not only can you expect more breakouts when you skip out on rest, your skin may also appear older”.

Debra Jaliman, who is a dermatologist based in New York City explains that "A lack of sleep upsets your hormonal balance.” If you regularly miss out on sleep, you may see an excess in wrinkling on your skin because of a decrease in collagen (that helps to keep our skin supple and wrinkle-free).

Being tired makes you crave food that is bad for you

Hands up who wants to eat a fruit salad following a terrible night’s sleep?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

A lack of sleep can push you towards making poor food decisions. The more exhausted you are the more your body produces cortisol, the stress hormone. Eating high-carbohydrate and high-fat foods is one way your body tries to lower your stress levels.

So when you’re sleepy and reaching for the comfort food it’s because your body is reacting to the added stress you’re putting yourself through by being over-tired.

Tiredness means you skip exercise

When you’re suffering from a lack of sleep, everything feels more difficult, especially fitting in a workout. Motivation levels go out the window when you’re tired.

Sleep is also important as a time for our bodies to rest. Without enough sleep, your body can’t do all it needs to do following your workout to repair and restock, meaning that you don’t get as much benefit out of your gym sesh.

Top tips for getting more sleep:

My number one tip for feeling more rested has to be not taking your phone to bed with you. I used to be on my phone all night long and had real problems switching off (literally!) before bedtime. I found it really hard to fall asleep after staring at my screen for so long and made the decision to leave my phone downstairs overnight.

This choice has been a total game changer for me and I have noticed a difference in the quality of my sleep.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Try to stick to a regular bedtime
  • Create a wind down routine that works for you to get ready for sleep
  • Exercise more!
  • Spend time outside during the day to get lots of natural light
  • Fight those naps - don’t give in to the afternoon snooze
  • Say no to late-night TV or screen use
  • Cut back on your sugars and carby food, plus late evening meals and alcohol.

 

For more inspiration, you could try some of these tips from Help Guide. I liked their toolbox of relaxing nighttime rituals.


Do you get enough sleep? What tips do you have for me for getting more zzzz’s? I’d love to hear what works for you so share your thoughts in the comments.

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