When it comes to improving health or getting fitter people will go to great lengths to ensure that they have a structured exercise programme and nutritional plan, however sometimes it requires more attention to lifestyle habits to make sure the body is in optimal condition to make changes and to recover from the exercise sessions.
Sleep is absolutely essential to health and survival, and if we are not getting enough quality time asleep it can have consequences on our health. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night - that is the optimal amount. As well as quantity we want to ensure quality - there are 5 stages of sleep that occur and we want to make sure we achieve a full cycle.
Stage 1 - Light sleep/Dosing - Muscle activity slows, occasional muscle twitching.
Stage 2 - Light Sleep - Breathing and HR slows, slight decrease in body temperature.
Stage 3 - Deep Sleep begins, brain begins to generate delta waves.
Stage 4 - Very Deep Sleep - Rhythmic breathing, limited movement. This is when the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development and builds energy for the next day.
Stage 5 - Rapid Eye Movement - You enter REM about 90mins after you fall asleep. Dreaming occurs here. HR increases and breathing is rapid and shallow. REM plays a important role in learning and memory, consolidated information from the day before.
During Stages 3 and 4 is when growth hormone secretions occurs.
A full cycle through these stages is about 90 minutes, if numerous full cycles of sleep aren’t attained most nights, Growth Hormone secretion can diminish and influence physical and mental restoration.
Have you thought about how you are sleeping and if it is helping you or hindering you reach your goals?
During this lockdown period we can assume people have more time at home and therefore more time to get their 7-9 hours in, many no longer have the daily commute or stresses of office work, the nation has certainly slowed down to this new temporary pace.
But, does that mean we are naturally more relaxed or less stressed?
Our temporary lockdown involves less physical contact with friends and colleagues however the social contact is still there if not increased by using the virtual world. Many still have the pressures of working from home, on their home computer in an office position that is most likely less ergonomically designed as a work station and thats if they have an office space at all. Juggling home schooling and staying constantly connected to the news, emails, house party and zoom apps. Everyone can see that we are more connected now which is a great thing but what it results in is more screen time.
This constant connection can mean that we are in a higher state of alertness by keeping our mind engaged. More screen time means more exposure to blue light, there is evidence that blue light emitted by screens suppresses our release of Melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that controls our sleep/wake cycle or Circadian Rhythm. The hormone is naturally released at night when natural light reduces to darkness, it gets our body ready for sleep and by reducing the release of it with unnatural light it makes it harder to fall asleep and also stay asleep.
Moving into week 8 of lockdown and the third phase of the government plan it is looking likely we are to stay at home longer. So that means more time at home, and more time being constantly connected. After spending an entire day surrounded by technology your mind needs time to unwind.
Lack of sleep usually reflects our priorities rather than our constraints. (Unless you have young children of course). Prioritise your sleep and sleep routine and try some is pre sleep hygiene measures to make sure you take some time to unwind from being connected.