How about a Sleepcation?

Eat smart, exercise daily, sleep sound, repeat!

Eat smart, exercise daily, sleep sound, repeat…

 

Yesterday our resident Master Trainer suggested making a vacation a gymcation. Today I go one better and recommend a sleepcation. Defined as an escape to a resort (or perhaps just a quiet local hotel) to just sleep and rest, this type of therapy might benefit a lot of people over the next six weeks, not least British politicians after the hectic pace of events over the past three weeks.

The importance of sleep

The No Targets Trinity sums up the key elements of a healthy lifestyle:

  • Eat Smart
  • Exercise Daily
  • Sleep Sound

While sleep may be considered by some to be the junior partner in this trinity, it deserves full recognition. To put it quite simply, sleep is vital for optimal health, essential for both mental and physical wellbeing.

While we sleep our body is working to support healthy brain function, while also maintaining our general health, for example balancing our appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin, which play a part in determining our feelings of hunger and fullness.

It’s no secret that sleep affects us in how we look, feel and in our performance of daily tasks. Studies have shown getting 7-8 hours’ sleep a night improves our attention span and ability to learn, aiding also with decision making and being creative.

Yet the risks associated with sleep deficiency are less well known and underestimated by many, while the risks associated with too much sleep will probably come as a complete surprise.

Sleep deficiency can raise the risk of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and frequent mental distress, while it can also increase the risk of obesity and all-cause mortality. Sleep deficiency has been linked to depression, risk-taking behaviour and even suicide.

Sleep is important for hormone balance, with sleep deficiency resulting in higher than normal blood sugar levels, while our immune system relies on adequate sleep to stay in optimal shape.

According to research from the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2016:

  • people who slept 7-8 hours/night were 25% less likely to have experienced a stroke
  • people who slept less than 7 hours/night were 22% more likely to have reported having a stroke
  • people who slept more than 8 hours/night were 146% more likely to have suffered a stroke

This extraordinary set of findings is even more alarming when we also consider that increase in sleep duration has also been associated with weight gain and with a modest increased risk of diabetes in middle-aged and older women.

Decrease in sleep duration has been associated with poor food choices and lack of physical activity.

Why we need to sleep

While we sleep our brain uses this precious ‘downtime’ to sort through the daily experiences we have encountered, filing the important information. So a bad night’s sleep can interrupt this process and lead to impaired mental function. Not allowing your body the time to carry out this essential function over the longer term has been associated with Alzheimer’s.

Equally, if our sleep is cut short our body does not have the time to complete all the critical phases that are important in addition to memory consolidation, such as muscle repair and hormone regulation.

Sleep in the 21st Century

Everyone faces an increasingly hectic lifestyle, often compounded by the 24/7 nature of our wired lives, with multiple sources of mental stimulation through phones and social media at all times of day and night.  But a healthy sleeping routine is a habit we really should adopt to avoid unnecessary health issues. Switching off electronic devices and keeping them out of the bedroom helps reduce the risk of insomnia, while trying to go to bed at a regular time will also help your body adopt a rhythm that makes it ready for sleep. Darkness is also important, as it stimulates the production of melatonin, a powerful hormone which is vital for sleep (see Sleep: vital for health. Melatonin: vital for sleep).

Nutrition and exercise are also key components in helping you sleep. Eating real food, exercising daily; both will help you sleep sound. Adopting all three elements of the No Targets Trinity will help you achieve what you want: looking and feeling the best you can be. By burning the candle at both ends you risk defeating the best efforts you may be making with the other two key pieces of the healthy lifestyle puzzle.

Perhaps William Blake put it best:

Think in the morning.

Act in the noon.

Eat in the evening.

Sleep in the night.

If the sleep element of Blake’s routine is missing from your life, a sleepcation might just be what is required to help you Relax, Rebase, Recharge & Return Refreshed.

 

 

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          About the author
Iris is the driving force behind No Targets and a dedicated campaigner for real foods. Having spent years reading research on food she believes what we eat is more important than the calories we consume or burn. “It's about calculating nutrition, not counting calories.”

Iris is the driving force behind No Targets and a dedicated campaigner for real foods. Having spent years reading research on food she believes what we eat is more important than the calories we consume or burn. “It’s about calculating nutrition, not counting calories.”

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