Most people in the UK are getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep per night, and it’s taking its toll. Many of those surveyed admit to feeling short-tempered or unable to concentrate as a result; and as for having the energy to hit the gym and train effectively? No way. When it comes to improving fitness, people acknowledge the importance of cardio, strength training or cutting back on fatty foods, but very few think of their sleep habits. In fact, getting a good night’s sleep is as important to your health goals as drinking plenty of water. Making sleep a priority should be up there with planning your week’s training schedule and menu.
The Sleep Council recommends between 7 and 9 hours’ sleep per night for adults. In reality, however, people are up late checking work emails and social media well into the night or watching TV on tablets in bed. Staying ‘plugged in’ to your tablet or phone forces your brain to stay alert; the blue light emitted from devices shuts down melatonin production, making it harder to sleep. It’s also much harder to de-stress if you’re thinking about work tasks right up until bedtime.
Sleep well, train well
Exercise and sleep are a virtuous partnership; exercising during the day helps the body to relax and sleep well, and a good night’s sleep sets you up for a great workout. Waking up feeling motivated and fresh means you can be more effective in the gym. Lack of sleep can sabotage your best diet intentions too, by suppressing your ‘feeling full’ hormone and leaving you feeling hungrier and more prone to snacking. Sleep is also an essential period for your body to build in strength; your muscles repair, energy stores are replenished, and your blood pressure lowers.
Shutting down for shut-eye
As the Mental Health Foundation confirms, one of the best things you can do for a good night’s sleep is turn off your devices earlier in the evening and let yourself relax. Since stress is a major factor in preventing sleep, try to reduce the things which make you anxious in the evenings. If the thought of not checking work emails worries you, then perhaps you could let your colleagues know that you are trying a new approach and won’t be picking up messages after a certain time. If your mind buzzes with worries when your head hits the pillow, maybe look at meditation or mindfulness techniques to help you calm your thoughts. Your diet can really help too; cut down on caffeinated drinks from the afternoon onwards, and opt for herbal tea such as chamomile during the evening.
Getting a good night’s sleep can be a key contributor to an effective fitness programme. Lack of sleep will leave you feeling low in energy, hungry and demotivated. It also gives your body less time to heal and rebuild between workouts. Instead, turn off your screens and turn in for an early night. Your trainer will notice the difference and so will you!
Guest Post by Jane Sandwood