It has been suggested that lack of quality sleep is the greatest obstacle to fat loss in the UK. (1) There is a direct correlation between weight gain and sleep quality or lack of.
Sound restful sleep is the cornerstone of recovery. Enough sleep boosts your anabolic hormones testosterone and growth hormone both of which are key players in getting you lean and keeping you healthy. Good sleep allows for normal leptin secretion which in turn managers hunger and keeps cortisol in check.
If sleep is disrupted the body produces the stress hormone cortisol which in turn leads to cravings for sugary and fatty foods the next day. Not only this but it has been shown that poor sleep accelerates ageing, suppresses your immune system and generally leads to poor physical and psychological performance.
Causes of poor sleep
There are many causes of poor sleep but in general
- If you have trouble falling asleep it is likely due to adrenal stress and anxiety.
- If you wake up within 0-2 hours of falling asleep = Likely due to reactive hypoglycaemia (high sugar meal before bed leading to drop in blood sugar).
- If you wake between 2- 4 hours after falling asleep = likely due to liver toxicity.
- If you wake between 4-6 hours after falling asleep = likely due to oxidative stress.
There is lots you can do to aid good quality sleep. By good quality sleep we mean:
- Bed before 11pm ideally 10pm and falling asleep in under 5 minutes.
- Sleep soundly for 7-9 hours with no waking.
- Wake up naturally between 6-8am feeling refreshed.
How to improve sleep quality
1: Ensure sure you have a good sleeping environment. Create a ‘bat cave’ with absolute darkness. It also helps to dim lights 90 minutes before bed and to stop watching TV or using computers, this will aid the production of melatonin. If you have to use a computer in the evenings then www.justgetflux.com will change your computer settings to coincide with the time of day ensuring only red light is emitted in the evenings rather than the usual stimulating blue light. Experiments have shown that light exposure prior to sleep can effect melatonin production.
2: Switch off all electrical equipment especially mobile phones. The radiation that mobiles emit is a stressor that effects sleep quality. If you rely on your phone for an alarm switch to digital watch or battery alarm clock.
3: Turn off your WiFi at night. This varies a great deal from person to person but some people are very sensitive to electromagnetic radiation and studies have shown that it can inhibit sleep quality.
4: Keep your room cool and try to keep the window open at least a little.
5: Go to bed at a consistent time every night, ideally between 10-11pm. We are still very much aligned with the lunar cycles and so we do the majority of our physical repair during the first few hours of sleep between 10pm-2am followed by psychological repair between the hours of 2-6am.
6: Try not to eat within 3 hours of going to bed and avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evenings. Having a small portion of carbohydrates with your last meal before bed will also aid sleep as it helps you produce the calming neurotransmitters serotonin and Gabba.
7: Having a bath with epsom salts in will also help, you will absorb the magnesium in the salts which is naturally calming and the drop in your core temperature afterwards will make you feel relaxed and sleepy.
8: Keeping a grateful log where by you write down all the things you are grateful for before going to sleep can help put you in a positive, less stressed frame of mind.
9: Read fiction prior to going to sleep. This is a great way unwind and escape any real world worries.
If the above tips don’t work then you may need some supplementation to help get you back on track. Some popular sleep aids include:
- Adaptagenics – Ashwagander / holy basil / relora – these all help normalise cortisol release throughout the day subsequently leading to lower levels in the evening.
- Magnesium threonate – helps calm your nervous system.
- Phenibut – A precursor to the sleep neurotransmitter gabba.
- Melotonin – can be used to re set your circadian rhythm.
Prior to trying any of the above supplements please consult with a qualified trainer.
- TS Wiley ‘Lights Out’
- Hung CS, Anderson C, Horne JA, McEvoy P. Mobile phone ‘talk-mode’ signal delays EEG-determined sleep onset. Neurosci Lett. 2007 Jun 21;421(1):82-6. Epub 2007 May 24.
- Cunnington D, Junge MF, Fernando AT. Insomnia: prevalence, consequences and effective treatment. Med J Aust. 2013 Oct 21;199(8):S36-40.