How are you sleeping?

How are you sleeping?

Wednesday 31st July 2019
Alex Pedley

On average we spend 36% of our lifetime in the land of nod, one third of our time on planet Earth. Not getting enough sleep can be frustrating, leaving you feeling worn out while heightening your emotions.

Sleep quality is just as important as sleep quantity and if you want to perform at your best, you must aim to create an environment that is conducive to a good nights rest. This is often termed as sleep hygiene, meaning the recommended behaviour and environment to induce good quality sleep.

Creating a nightly ritual to induce sleep is essential to your physical recovery. Probably the most important of all sleep routines is to ensure that you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, when possible.

This allows your body clock to maintain a regular sleep/wake cycle, known as your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is your internal body clock, which generally runs on roughly a 24-hour cycle, between sleepiness and alertness. You may notice that you have a big dip in energy at some point in the afternoon; this is all down to your sleep cycle, as are other peaks and troths of energy throughout your day.

Your circadian rhythm influences your hormone release, eating habits and digestion, body temperature, and other important bodily functions. Biological clocks that run fast or slow can result in disrupted or abnormal circadian rhythms. Irregular rhythms have been linked to various chronic health conditions, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.

Regular sleep patterns can be tough for those of us who have to travel for work. Flying to New York overnight to catch a morning meeting before returning back to London overnight to be ready for another day can throw your body out of sync. When you pass through different time zones, your biological clock will be different from the local time, causing jet lag. When you fly east from London to New York, you move forward 5 hours in time. When you arrive at 7:00 a.m. in New York, your biological clock is still running on London time, so you feel the way you might feel at 12pm p.m. Fast forward 10 hours to 5pm in New York your biological clock will be getting ready for bed. Your biological clocks will reset, but this often takes a few days, by when you may already be on the way back to the previous time zone. When you do this regularly it can play havoc on your sleep cycle.

Sleep cycle can also be affected by if you are a morning or evening person. You will know some people who operate at their best during the late hours compared to others, like me, who work much more effectively in the morning. This may be down to our ancestors. It is believed that our Paleolithic ancestors split the roles of keeping an eye out for predators between the members. This would mean that as evening fell some of the members would stay on watch later into the night whilst others members slept. Then the favour was repaid when morning came. This would ensure that there was minimum time spent with the whole community asleep, keeping them safe from intruders. This could be an important factor when trying to harness the best quality work output from your team. Understanding which part of the day they operate at the peak of their powers could improve output and productivity.

Getting a good night sleep is essential to your mental and physical wellbeing. You will not only feel better but also perform better in the following day.

Essentially, this is how insulin acts as it tries to push more and more glucose into a packed cell, causing your body to produce more insulin to accommodate the high level of glucose. Over a period of weeks, months and years, more of the hormone insulin is produced in the blood stream as it tries to find cell receptors to store the glucose. This leads to your body becoming more resistant to insulin, making it harder to access fat and ultimately if this cycle isn't address diabetes ensues.

If you body has readily available glycogen then it will not use fat as energy. When there is too much insulin in your bloodstream it essentially shuts the door on access to the fat stored

Imagine glycogen, as food in your cupboard, which is easily accessed and fat as food stored in your garage. The food in your garage is difficult to access and will need to be transferred to your cupboard before cooking.

Your body will use the easily assessable energy in your "cupboard" until it is empty. To lose weight, you will need to delve into the garage where fat is stored. This is all governed by insulin; if you have high levels of insulin in your blood then you may struggle to use fat as energy - the garage is essentially locked and insulin is stopping you opening it. It doesn't matter how few calories you consume - if you have high levels of insulin, you simply won't be able access the fat, meaning you will not lose weight.

This maybe why it is harder for someone who has lost weight to keep it off. If they have "crash dieted", without addressing their insulin sensitivity so their body is more likely to store the energy as fat and their metabolism is likely to be at rock bottom.

There are methods that you can use to improve your sensitivity to insulin straight away. It starts by gradually reducing starchy carbohydrates, while introducing more vegetables - especially leafy greens - into your diet. Eat a healthy dose of fats and a low to medium amount of protein. This will induce a smaller insulin spike and is high nutrient rich foods.

Once you are better adapted to using fat as fuel everything becomes easier; you will achieve your ideal body much faster; you will increase your energy levels instead of reducing them; you will be able to eat food in abundance instead of cut it down; you will start to see results straight any; the best part is that they will keep on coming.

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