This Monday is known as Blue Monday, a statistically miserable day by virtue of things like rain, dark, cold, work, abandoned resolutions, fatigue etc. I recently attended a fascinating TEDx talk by Professor Adrian Williams, a 30-year-practised leading authority on Sleep, based at London’s Guy’s & St Thomas’ hospital; I was reminded of sleep’s unsung value to our lives. Consequently, to combat Blue Monday, I’ve decided to revisit the theme of ‘the importance of sleep’ and have added a few bonus bits & pieces! I think most of us recognize we can benefit from it, but we don’t approach it in a structured way. The appropriate length and quality of sleep allows your body to function at peak efficiency both mentally and physically, and it’s just as valuable as regular exercise and wholesome nutrition. A good night’s sleep can improve overall health and make every aspect of the subsequent day more productive, so I’ve detailed what I think are the key reasons why we should all invest more time in our rest! In this post, I’ve also collaborated with Philips to test their Wake-up Light, as getting up is the part of sleep I find the most difficult! Click MORE to see it all…
Time for a guilty admission then; for me, the absolute worst part of sleep is the point at which I have to recognize that it’s over. It’s like a mini break-up, every morning; me & sleep, we’re so good for each other, but it just can’t continue; it’s wrong (but so right!). After reading a lot of buzz around ‘artificial sunrises’ for some years now, I took a chance when Philips reached out about their clinically proven product, and thought I’d give the Philips Wake-up Light a shot, as an experiment. It’s a wake-up light with inbuilt alarm clock complemented by the sound of nature (or FM radio), which simulates a gradual, 30-minute-long sunrise, cycling through colour temperatures of warm red, glowing orange, to bright white [see below image], creating a seemingly more natural start to the day. The light is meant to signal gradually to your body that it’s time to pare back the production of sleep hormones (such as melatonin) and start to accelerate those which help you get up and go (e.g. cortisol).
To reiterate, I am absolutely, by NO means a morning person – it doesn’t matter that I have a military routine in place, waking up early is always a catastrophic debacle. This light has made a perceptible difference; when I wake (sometimes when the inbuilt meadow-song wakes me, other times I wake naturally during the latter stages of the 30-min beaming sunrise), I feel less disoriented, nowhere near as tragic, less shocked, and less violated by no longer being in the cosy land of nod! As a result, I’m not quite as grouchy in the mornings, and I’m a tiny (but noticeable) bit more energetic. Living in the UK though, and getting up at 05:00 or 06:00 to face the pitch black darkness of a hostile and frosty winter is not fun; the Wake-up Light really does incrementally help render the process less unbearable during these months!
To recap here’s my thesis on the ethos behind sleep, the ‘why to’, and the ‘what if I don’t…’;
1) “WHY SHOULD I ???”
Getting the right quality and amount of sleep:
– Enhances muscular recovery by speeding up protein synthesis,
– Restores and maintains mental alertness (by discharging the brain’s accumulated daily Adenosine build-ups),
– Releases Human Growth Hormone – 60% to 70% of daily HGH secretion takes place when you’re in early sleep, following which the deepest sleep cycles often occur! Poor quality sleep can negatively impact human growth hormone levels.
– Restore organs, bones, and tissue; replenishes immune cells; and circulates human growth hormone around the resting body.
– Vastly improves the quality of interaction with other people!
2) MY “SLEEP TIGHT” ETHOS…
‘Get more sleep’ is easily said, but I know a lot people who simply can’t fall asleep, and toss and turn for hours on end. For a while, that was me too, stuck in a catch 22 of feeling too tired during the day, going to bed too late and waking up too early in the morning, only to do it all over again. One way I tackled this was by working out on a regular basis which is proven not only to help you fall asleep but also to improve the quality of that sleep. Everybody is different, so it takes time to figure out what works best for you; I personally prefer a heavy workout early in the morning, a productive day, then a light ‘exercise’ in the late evening (e.g. a power walk which gives my body the final reminder of just how tired it really is!). I wouldn’t recommend doing an intense workout before bed as that energizes the body instead of calming it. Afterward, a relaxing warm bath (I add this lavender bath oil to unwind muscle fatigue) and a mint tea (try to avoid any caffeine or alcohol before sleep, as they’re stimulants). Other things that may help is avoiding oversleeping as it will interrupt your circadian system (‘body clock’), which in turn will set you off later when you need to fall asleep. I’d stay away from sleeping pills as much as possible as they cause the body to develop a dependency, and they don’t get to the root of the real problem anyway, but just mask the symptoms. There are stories of politicians surviving on 4 hours sleep a night, but frankly, that’s unhealthy for anyone in the long run. I’ve always felt 7 hours to be a minimum in order to maximize well-being during the day, and I regularly aim for 8 hours. Also, a room that’s dark and not too hot helps too. Investing in the largest & highest-quality mattress the room will take can be life-changing, and even fun little apps like the Sleep Cycle alarm clock can help you sleep smarter too!
3) “…AND WHAT IF I DON’T ???”
Not getting enough / high-quality sleep:
– Weakens the immune system,
– Renders you less energetic which will lower the quality/intensity of a workout,
– Affects the concentration of sugar levels in your blood – they’re likely to become elevated, which can lead to development of a pre-diabetic condition,
– Slows the metabolism, leaving it harder to maintain or lose weight,
– Induces a sluggish sense,
– Can increase appetite (certainly does with me!),
– Makes you moody and loose the motivation to workout or do anything!
Hope that helps you to rest up, sleep well, and train harder!
I was wearing: Sanne Alexandra ‘LACE SWEAT KIT‘
THIS IS A SPONSORED PIECE OF CONTENT IN PARTNERSHIP WITH PHILIPS. PLEASE SEE MY DISCLOSURE PAGE FOR MORE ABOUT WHY I TAKE ON SUCH PROJECTS.