A proper night’s sleep could help you on your quest to lose weight

PERSONAL trainer and group fitness instructor Sue Taylor.
PERSONAL trainer and group fitness instructor Sue Taylor.

I am not sure what your thoughts are, but doesn’t it appear that almost everyone you speak to nowadays is having trouble sleeping?

It is something that not only adversely affects your health, but also your body fat levels too and something that I struggle with every now and then too.

You know what it is like, you head off to bed feeling shattered, only to lie there, tossing and turning unable to settle. You eventually fall to sleep but then are rudely awoken by the alarm and end up hitting the snooze button three or four times before literally dragging yourself out of your warm cosy pit.

The whole day then becomes a struggle. You need some caffeine and/or a sugar drip just to get through and your session after work in the gym or at boot camp ends up being more like a rest than an effective fat burning training session.

Sound familiar? Then read on…..

Lack of sleep is something that can halt fat loss dead in its tracks and have a real adverse effect on your overall health and well being.

Just imagine what a good, restful night’s sleep would do for you. You wouldn’t need to survive on caffeine, your sugar cravings would subside and your performance in the gym, on the pitch or at boot camp would be much better.

I guess to understand why sleep is so important we need to look at what actually happens during sleep itself.

This is the time when your body rests, recovers and rejuvenates. This is vital for fitness as this is when your muscles repair and grow stronger. During sleep there is a large release of growth hormone. Growth hormone is vital for fat loss and for all round health.

During sleep your digestive system will also try to deal with the food you have eaten that and the previous day, this is why eating your last evening meal three or four hours before bed is a great idea as your digestive system will then get a rest too whilst you sleep.

Liver function is also pretty high through the night as it tries to detoxify and metabolise anything that has gone into your body that shouldn’t really have gone in there.

So, what affects sleep?

* Caffeine is public enemy number one. It raises your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) for up to 18 hours. In order to sleep well you really need lower cortisol levels during the evening.

* Processed foods – laced with MSG and E numbers, the human digestive system simply isn’t designed to digest these types of foods, so when you are trying to sleep your guts and liver are working overtime to try and deal with all the toxins, especially if those toxins are part of your evening meal. Things like pre made sauces, ready meals, ketchups, bread etc are all processed foods that are making your insides work overtime when you should be sleeping.

* The use of laptops and watching TV late in the evenings can also play havoc with your sleep patterns. I know a lot of people that fall to sleep whilst watching TV in bed. You may even think that that is a good thing, but when you wake up the next day with no energy you may want to rethink your strategy. The back light of your laptop and the bright lights from your TV actually stimulate your eyes and engage your brain – the very opposite of what you want at bed time.

There are ways that you can dramatically improve your sleep patterns and one of the best ways is to construct your own ‘chill out’ system post bed.

You really need to calm your nervous system down so here are some top tips to help.

* Turn off the TV and laptop at least an hour before bed.

* Take a bath with some added magnesium oil or magnesium flakes – magnesium acts as a great relaxant as well as being crucial for cell health.

* Bin the caffeine and other stimulants.

* Make your evening meal one with things that are natural and nutritious such as vegetables and lean protein or fish.

* Read fiction before bed – work related books will ignite the brain cells again.