Corinne Austin | Personal Training

Beauty Sleep – Why we Need It

Sleep, we all know we need it. Some of us like 10 hours of sleep a night, where as others get by on 5. The professionals say we need somewhere between 7 and 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night to be healthy. And despite growing support that adequate sleep is as vital to our well-being as adequate nutrition and regular exercise, the majority of us are sleeping less than the daily requirements.

There’s a growing number of us who view sleep merely as ‘down time’. In actual fact, we should be prioritising sleep as ‘critical time’. We are habitually placing the necessity of sleep lower on our giant list of priorities because others tasks and responsibilities seem much more important. For our minds and our bodies to function at their optimal level we need to change our priorities and ensure sleep is right up there sitting just above exercise and nutrition.

And no matter what friends or colleagues may try to tell you, it’s a common myth that people can learn to live with less sleep and not be affected by it. Did you know that 100 years ago most people slept for nine hours a night? I know times have changed and evolution continues to shape our ever-changing world, but one thing that won’t ever change is the absolute importance of a good night’s sleep.

Alongside humans, every mammal, bird, and reptile needs sleep as well. And while the exact reasons why we need sleep so desperately are not yet fully understood and remain a little of a mystery, scientists continue to agree about the following theories of why it is we need to get our beauty sleep:

  • Learning & Memory – Sleep enables our brain to process fresh information, organise and store memories, and to find solutions to our problems and stresses. Whilst we sleep, the brain is essentially undertaking a spring clean and reorganising information into a more useful arrangement. If you take a nap or sleep after learning something new, your ability to reproduce that information will be far greater when you are tested on it at a later date. Insufficient sleep results in impaired memory, moodiness, and reduced cognitive abilities.
  • Mood – Inadequate amounts of sleep will cause you to be irritable and impatient, and your tolerance of normal day to day activities will be diminished. Your ability to focus and concentrate on home or work tasks will also be compromised, leading to reduced productivity and satisfaction levels. Lack of sleep also leads to poor motivation and drive, meaning you’ll be less likely to achieve the things you want to do.
  • Metabolism – Consistently poor sleep patterns can lead to weight gain as well as weight loss – more often the former – but in either case it’s not a good thing. Lack of sleep negatively affects the way our bodies metabolism works, and can play havoc with our hormone levels, namely cortisol (the stress hormone). Hormonal imbalances will affect things such as appetite, mood, weight loss/gain, and sex drive.
  • Health & Disease – Regularly underdoing your sleep hours severely alters the strength of your body’s immunity including the activity of your vital killer cells. This means you are more susceptible to ‘catching’ a bug, virus, or infection. Studies have also shown that poor sleep levels may also make us more prone to certain types of cancer. Furthermore, serious sleep disorders have also been linked to high blood pressure, increased risk of heart events, the development of diabetes and obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Safety – Lacking sleep? Then please be aware that your own personal safety has been compromised. Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to forget things (did you turn off and unplug the iron?), to get drowsy and clumsy, or at worse fall asleep (possibly whilst driving your car!). This can lead to falls or car accidents – things we normally work to avoid.

There is no doubt that adequate levels of sleep can offer us a therapeutic effect. Take a good look at your current sleep schedule. Are you getting enough sleep? If not, what could you change to ensure you do? I know those other tasks that have previously taken priority are important too, but ask yourself ‘What’s the worst that can happen if you do leave it for another day and do get to bed earlier?’ Delay the deadline if need be, or delegate. Do whatever it takes because one things for sure, your sleep (and your health) need to come first.

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