I probably don't need to remind you the clocks go back tonight............an extra hour in bed woohooo! Unless of course you have a little person in your house who doesn't get this at all. Or a cat tapping your face because it's breakfast time and you are 2 minutes late! Why stay in bed when you can wake mummy and daddy up and get them to play with you?!!
Many of us underestimate the importance of sleep when it comes to our health. We look forward to the weekends as an opportunity to catch up (if you are one of the lucky ones) but if we were able to sleep more consistently through the entire week, we would be so much better off.
We are sleeping less than ever yet we ignore the fact that mental and physical health problems become more pronounced when we have less than 6 hours sleep a night. Around 1/3 of the UK population are sleep deprived, but how much sleep do we really need? 8hrs a night is really a myth. Experts believe most adults need ~6-9 hours a night in order to feel refreshed and be able to function the following day; it is a very personal thing.
I bet most of us know from personal experience that just one bad night’s sleep affects our mood and productivity. Catching up on that bad night however is easier said than done! Our to do lists are longer than ever and of course when we are tired, we achieve less. We procrastinate more, find it harder to focus and so it becomes less likely we will get everything done we wanted to............so we work for longer, stay up later, get more tired, the cycle goes on.
Long term sleep deprivation is well known to be associated with several serious health concerns - heart disease, diabetes, stroke and depression but more recently there's been much more focus on the link between sleep, eating and body weight. Disrupted sleep is linked to changes in appetite and metabolism; the less we sleep, the more likely we are to gain weight. Just one night of poor sleep slows our metabolism the following day with many other negative repercussions.
Sleep-deprived people tend to seek more calories, are more impulsive with their food choices and also eat more (portion sizes tend to be larger). One of the reasons for this is that sleep loss causes hormonal shifts that cause us to feel more hungry. We release a hormone called grehlin that stimulates appetite. This isn't a true hunger but a response our body often uses when we are tired; we go for more Calorie rich foods (particularly fatty foods) in an effort to boost energy. When we were running about in loin cloths it was a mechanism to increase survival. Today however, we live in a society where food is plentiful, accessible and cheap for most so it's easy feed those hunger signals.
And when we feel tired, we are also less likely to want to exercise. Energy expenditure falls which can also have a negative impact on our motivation, 'get up and go' and waist line.
Our bed times will also have a significant effect on our food intake too. Nearly half of us go to bed after 11pm and that time may well be spent watching TV, playing on mobile phones and tablets, checking emails; being busy doing nothing really!
Image care of the sleep council
The later we stay up, the more likely it is we will snack and of course, eating late at night is not very conducive to good sleep. We may snack out of habit whilst watching a film. It could be out of boredom or due to stress / emotion. I think the evening time is one of the most challenging times for eating foods we might have resisted all day.
So what can you do to sleep better?
- Get active! Inactivity is linked to poor quality sleep and fewer hours too.
- Avoid caffeine after 3pm, particularly if you find it difficult to drop off at bed time.
- Find a routine that works for you - try to stick to a consistent bed time and wake up time - our body clock loves routine!
- Have a 30 minute wind down period before you go to bed to help your body prepare for sleep -turn down the lights and switch off your electronic devices. Reading or listening to music are ideal.
- Don't go to bed hungry (but also don't eat too much, too late)
- Ensure your room is a sleep haven; dark, quiet and free from distractions - leave your phone charging downstairs. Get rid of the TV and any other unnecessary electronics.
- Make sure your bed is comfy! Around 13% of us don't sleep because of an uncomfortable mattress / bed
- Keep your bedroom cool.
Next time I'll be sharing some tips on which foods can be good for sleep and help you calm down before bed.