Sleep yourself slim and healthy

How high on your priorities is a good night’s sleep? Good sleep is vital to good health but is often undervalued. Many people get less hours of sleep than they really need. Quality is important too. It’s better to get a full night of uninterrupted sleep than to be woken during the night. This is a problem for sufferers of sleep-apnoea.

Your body goes through a repair cycle while many of your systems are on shut-down and it takes time to sequence through each part of the cycle. It’s linked to the natural day/night pattern too. For instance our adrenals do a majority of their recovery during the hours of 11pm and 1am so it’s better to go to bed early than late even if the total number of hours you sleep is the same.

Consequences of insufficient sleep include, weakened immune system, accelerated ageing, possible insulin resistance, poor memory and depression.

It may surprise you to know that another side effect is weight gain. It’s all to do with levels of hormones and the key chemical signal comes from melatonin which you produce during the hours of darkness. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and protects you from cancer. If there is any light in your bedroom, it will interfere with the process so with the sun rising early a the moment or all year round if you live in an area with street lights, you’ll need thick curtains or black-out quality blinds to make it fully dark.

An American study has shown that dieters who slept for 8.5 hours lost 55% more body fat than dieters who slept 5.5 hours. Those with lack of sleep lost more muscle mass, were hungrier and wanted less healthy types of food such as sweet things. This is because lack of sleep raises levels of the appetite stimulating-hormone ghrelin and lowers levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin.

How much sleep you need depends on you. On average 6-8 hours seems to be about right. Sleeping too much can cause problems too but not many people fall into this category with our 24/7 modern mindset. The answer is to listen to what your body is telling you.

‘Early to bed and early to rise’ might sound like an old wives’ tale but as we are discovering to our cost with artificial food, we break these natural cycles at risk of our health.