Sleep to succeed!
Updated: Mar 16, 2018
Poor sleep quality can certainly ruin your performance and fat loss goals
it is associated in a decline in performance (1 ) (2) and cognitive function, such as memory, decision making and attention span (3), and causes hormonal disruptions which result in increased hunger, and a reduction in satiety ( i.e. it will take a lot longer for you to feel full) and an increase in craving for high calorie foods (4)
People do vary on how much sleep they need (5) but generally people should be aiming for at least 7 and a half hours sleep per night.
This is a good time to point out that needing 8 hours is actually a myth; we sleep in 90 minute cycles, with our sleep being lightest at the beginning/end of these- it is at this point it is easiest to wake up, so we should aim to be setting an alarm at the end of a cycle, hence 7 and a half hours, rather than 8; you will likely feel groggy and find it harder to wake up if you aim for the latter. So if you are going to sleep at 11pm, set your alarm for 6:30am , rather than 7am. The sleep cycles are often why snoozing your alarm can make it harder to wake up- as you just enter another sleep cycle.
The first 90 minutes when you wake up , and the last 90 minutes before you go to bed is crucial. This assists sleep quality which is just as important as quantity. If this is on point, many find that they need less sleep ( I can certainly vouch for this and was able to reduce my sleep from 9 hours a night to 7 and a half by doing this). For both 90 minute periods , avoid use of your phone . You also need to devise a routine, where stress is kept to a minimum within this time, and I have put some tips below.
In the hour and half before going to bed –
1. Ensure that low lighting is used- this encourages a reduction in the hormones keeping you awake, and an increase in those that enable you to sleep. For this reason, light emitting devices such as TVs and tablets should be minimised, and ideally cut out completely.
2. Find relaxing activities that wind you down. Suggested ones include : talking to loved ones ( rather than going on social media!), warm baths, meditation , use of lavender oils ( 6,7) ,stretching, cooking and reading are all great activities.
3. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible- for the reasons of using low lighting pre bed, this also applies, so any light emitting devices such as phones or clocks should be removed or switched off. Black out blinds are a great idea ( particularly in summer when it gets light so early) , as are eye masks.
4. Ear plugs are also a good idea to minimise the risk of waking up – I often recommend these and eye masks to the clients that work away, as sleep quality tends to be substantially poorer.
5. Journalling- writing down what you need to do tomorrow, and any worries from the day , acts as a brain ‘de-load’ , transferring these from your brain , onto paper. Instead of swirling round in your head, you acknowledge the problems , and deal with them, and can also relax knowing you have a plan of action ready for tomorrow.
6. Make sure you eat! Not only is this an excellent mindful activity to help relax you ( if there a no distractions e.g. phones and TV), and it brings about the rest and digest phase, to help you unwind. This is where we can use the chemicals released from food , that bring about pleasure and relaxation to our advantage ; these are higher if the meal is higher in carbs.
At the beginning of the day:
1. As mentioned above- avoid the use of your phone for the first 90 minutes. This enables you to wake up fully, but you also need to be starting your day positively and calmly- this sets the tone for the rest of the day- as social media in particular can bring about negative emotions, it is important this is avoided in this period.
2. Positive mindset activities- these include meditation ( there are great apps, which start from 3 minutes upwards- great for the beginner) and practicing gratitude ( for example, writing down, or thinking what you are grateful for from the day before, and the day to come)
3. Get out in the light. Go for a 30 minute walk- this not only acts as a nice calorie burn for fat-loss goals, but light exposure has been seen to improve mood. (8)
4. Get up in plenty of time for work- as essentially this 90 minute period is your waking up period, it is important that this is completed before you start work. So if you start at 8, make sure you are up at 6:30
5. If you like breakfast- eat! As mentioned above, eating is a mindful activity and , the release chemicals should help to relax you, so this can be hugely beneficial for those that are prone to anxiety.
Give these tips a go, and let me know how you get on!
A special thank you to Nick Littlehales aka the Sleep Coach , who coached me to improve my sleep last year. To find out more about Nick and his products and services, including the fantastic book 'Sleep' please visit his website
1. Andrade et al (2016) Sleep Quality, Mood and Performance: A Study of Elite Brazilian Volleyball Athletes. J Sports Sci Med, 15(4) 601-605
2. Thun et al (2015) Sleep, circadian rhythms, and athletic performance. Sleep Med Rev. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.11.003
3. Alhola P and Polo-Kantola P (2007) Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat, 3 (5) :553-567
4. Greer et al (2014) The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nat Commun, 4:2259, doi:10.1038/ncomms3259
5. Postolache TT (2005) Sports Chronobiology. Clinics in Sports Medicine. Volume 24, Issue 2, Pages xlx-xxii
6. Hirokawa K (2012) Effects of lavender aroma on sleep quality in healthy Japanese students. Percept Mot Skills, 114 (1):111-22
7. Afshar et al (2015) Lavendar Fragrance Essential Oil and the Quality of Sleep in Postpartum Women. Iran Red Crescent Med j , doi: 10.5812/ircmj.17(4)2015.25880
8. Reeves et al (2012) Improvement in Depression Scores After 1 Hour of Light Therapy Treatment in Patients With Seasonal Affective Disorder. J Nerv Ment Dis, doi:10.1097/NMD.0b0113e31823e56ca