Why sleep is important and the secret to getting enough

Sleeping Person

How did you sleep last night? Did you nod off quite quickly, sleep through and then bounce out of bed this morning. Or like 60% of the adult population did you struggle to drop off, wake frequently throughout the night and then have to drag yourself out of bed this morning to get to work on time.

Sleep is essential to keep your body healthy and strong and there’s a lot of stuff going on whilst you’re asleep. For starters there are five stages to your sleep cycle:

Stage 1 – you’re drifting off, your eyes move slowly and your muscles can suddenly contract so you get that sensation of falling.

Stage 2 – going a bit deeper, your eye movement stops and your brainwaves start to slow.

Stage 3 – you experience very slow brain waves known as delta with occasional fast ones.

Stage 4 – exclusively slow delta waves, it’s very difficult to wake somebody in this stage of sleep. Hormone changes occur including the release of human growth hormone, which is really important for muscle repair and fat burning.

Stage 5 – just before you wake up, REM (rapid eye movement – not the band!), your subconscious is at its most active so dreams occur here. It’s hard to regulate temperature so this is when night sweats can occur.

You go through an average of 3-5 cycles per night with each sleep cycle lasting around 90 – 110 minutes and your brain undergoes most change during REM.

If your sleep is disturbed and you regularly don’t make it to stage 4 and 5 the consequences include:

• weight gain especially around your middle
• worsening perimenopause or menopause symptoms
• Poor concentration
• Reduced problem solving ability
• Low motivation
• Five years less life expectancy

The older you get the more sleep you need because your body needs more time to rejuvenate and replenish.

What’s the Secret to getting a good nights sleep?

It all comes down to this – routine!

• Keep consistent bed time and waking patterns in line with the natural release and drop off cortisol. That’s up at 6am and bed at 10pm!
10.15pm is the optimum bedtime because that’s when cortisol drops right off and melatonin should be peaking.
• No caffeine for six hours before bedtime.
• Your bedroom should be pitch black and cool. 64 degrees is the optimum temperature for women and their hormones!
• No blue light after 9pm which tells the brain that its still daytime and shouldn’t produce melatonin. So switch off those tablets, phones, computers and even the TV.
Dim the lights from around 8pm to help your body relax and wind down.

The truth is, it’s our lifestyles and the relentless stress we’re under that’s facilitating poor sleep patterns in so many of us. So, breathe, relax and choose a couple of actions from list above. Apply them consistently and you’ll soon feel brighter, lighter and ready to face any challenge your working day brings. Let me know how you get on.

About the author

Julie Dennis is a weight loss specialist for women over 40 and through menopause. She is WATC's new fitness and health blogger. Follow Julie’s blog or visit: www.juliedennis.net.

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