By Jackie Babington
The importance of sleep for training and fat loss
I know I don’t need to tout that more sleep is better than less sleep for any form of progress. However, I feel if you truly understand what kind of sleep and methods to improve your sleep quality then this can be super valuable in you ACTUALLY trying to get more sleep. Overall we know 7-9hrs sleep is an optimal range to achieve but if the quality of these hrs is impacted, then it can often make you feel like you’ve only had 2-4hrs sleep!
SLEEP Cycles and Stages:
Throughout the average nights sleep, we have 4-5 sleep cycles that occur. Initially our first is around 90mins long and the following start to become longer ranging from around 100-120mins long.
Within a cycle of sleep, generally, you will go through stage 1,2 and 3 of Non REM (Non Rapid Eye Movement). As the stages go along the sleeper experiences and lower level of consciousness and less chance of being woken up by their environment. Once the sleeper has hit stage 3 they then go back through the stages in reverse until they come to REM sleep. REM sleep is one of the lightest of the stages but also one of the most important.
The benefits of Stage 3 and REM sleep:
- Improved memory and cognitive function and development
- Better blood insulin management and glucose metabolism
- Higher production of HGH (Human growth hormone) which helps our bodies recover and increase lean muscle after training.
- Better stress management (lack of sleep in these two stages can increase our cortisol and lead to higher overall stress and make losing fat just that little bit harder, particularly around the belly)
- Managing food cravings (lack of quality sleep in these stages can lead to the body craving quick energy fixes the best way it knows how, through sugary and high processed carbohydrate sources)
What can Impact the quality of sleep?
There are a number of things that can impact the ability to move into the deeper cycles of sleep and longer periods of REM sleep.
- Exposure to blue light (computer screen, LED lights, phone/iPad screen, any small light on electronics in your room)
- Over stimulation via phone or TV
- Room temperature (the ideal temperature is around 16deg C for sleep)
- Minimising caffeine intake past 12-3pm (this can depend on how slow or fast your body is at processing caffeine too)
- No alcohol before going to bed. (Yep that wine to help you wind down after putting the kids to bed is totally impacting your quality of sleep)
Things you can do to improve sleep quality?
In addition to some of the suggestions above you can:
- Shower near bedtime
- Keep your room cool
- Cut off the use of technology 2hrs before bed
- Get your room as dark as possible. Block any small lights from chargers or electronics and if possible purchase curtains that black out your room at night.
- If in the earlier stages of improving your sleep, it’s helpful to take a small dose of melatonin to help your body become use to relaxing and winding down into a bedtime routine.
- Another age old technique is using good quality camomile tea or even dried camomile flowers and making a tea.
I know for me sleep has been something I’ve had to make a priority on in increasing my training load and simply with waking up early as a fitness person. Also, I love my coffee so managing this so it doesn’t impact my sleep is always a fine balance and no one deserves to meet a tired and grumpy Jackie.
Hope this helps you guys!!