Sleep…The Missing Link

You’ve been working hard to get in your exercise sessions and eat a healthy balanced diet, but are you still feeling a bit sluggish?  Don’t have the energy to greet the day with enthusiasm?  Hit a plateau on dropping those last few pounds?  What are you missing?

Diet, Exercise…And SLEEP

It may be as simple as having a regular schedule of a good nights’ sleep.  Adequate sleep is necessary for healthy functioning.  Research shows that sleep regulates mood and is related to learning and memory functions.  When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed and alert for our daily activities.  Sleep affects how we look, feel and perform on a daily basis, and can have a major impact on our overall quality of life.

What happens when you sleep?

To get the most out of our sleep, both quantity and quality are important. When we are sleeping, our bodies follow a pattern of alternating REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep throughout a typical night, in a cycle that repeats about every 90 minutes.

NREM is about 75% of the night; during this stage we are relaxing, our breathing and heart rate slow, our body temperature drops, we begin to fall asleep and move toward the deeper sleep.  During this stage, the blood supply to the muscles increases, hormones are released, such as growth hormones, allowing for tissue growth, repair, and development (especially in the muscles).  Also happening during this stage is a restoration of our energy levels.

REM sleep accounts for about 25% of the night.  During this stage, we are in deep sleep, where our body becomes fully relaxed and our muscles are shut off.  While the brain is active (and typically dreaming) during this stage, this is the sleep stage that will support our daytime performance and function.

If our sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases it needs for muscle repair, memory consolidation, and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite.

Here are a few key benefits of a regular good night’s sleep:

  • Learning and memory. Sleep helps the brain to commit new information to memory.
  • Metabolism and weight. Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
  • Safety. A lack of sleep contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
  • Mood. Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
  • Cardiovascular health. Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
  • Disease. Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

How much sleep do you need?

 There’s no ‘magic number’ here.  Different age groups need different amounts of sleep and sleep needs vary by individual.  Here are the recommended ‘rule-of-thumb’ ranges:

  • Teens (11-17) 8.5-9.25 hours
  • Adults 7-9 hours
  • Older Adults 7-9 hours

To determine how much sleep you need, it’s important to assess your own individual needs and habits.  See how you respond to different amounts of sleep, pay close attention to your mood, energy levels, and health after a poor nights sleep, versus a good one.  Determine how often you get a good night’s sleep, if it’s not often, then you may need to consider changing your sleep habits.

If you have questions about this article, or would like to know more about the overall health recommendations we give to our clients, just give us a call at 0421 287 107 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.