We all want to believe that we get enough sleep - we’ve been doing it for long enough, so we must be doing it right, right? Unfortunately for the majority of us, that’s simply not the case.
One thing to note is that most experts agree that adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. This will definitely vary depending on your activity level, your age, and many other factors - the Sleep Foundation has a science-backed and fact-checked calculator that can figure all the details out for you.
To understand why we need sleep, we should first understand what happens during it. Although all it takes is relaxing and having a lie-down, your body actually works pretty hard while sleeping. There are four distinct stages of sleep; these go from lighter sleep (stages 1 and 2), to deep sleep (stage 3), and rapid-eye-movement sleep (REM). During the later stages, your body becomes temporarily paralyzed, but your brain activity increases dramatically. This is when your most vivid dreams happen. Scientists believe that the combination of light and deep sleep over the course of the night enables you to wake up refreshed, both physically and mentally. Your body is unable to properly progress through these cycles without enough sleep, which can have detrimental effects on your health.
We all know that a night of little to no sleep might make us crave that cup of coffee a bit more than usual, not to mention how irritated we might get over the smallest of things. However, there are many more short and long-term effects of sleep deprivation that are so important to be aware of.
Not getting enough sleep will negatively affect your focus, attention span, memory, ability to learn, and metabolism - to name just a few. Sleep is a restorative, renewing, and refreshing process - as mentioned before, your body works non-stop. This is why it can have a massive impact on your fitness and health journey! During sleep, many of the hormones that influence our metabolism and appetite are regulated. When we do not get enough sleep, our body’s ability to stabilize our hormones and metabolism is slowed down. This means that when we are sleep deprived, our body produces less leptin (the hormone that makes us feel full) and more ghrelin (the hormone that makes us feel hungry). This eventually may lead to unintentional weight gain and like a step back in your journey.
There are, of course, people who cannot easily get to sleep, or have other sleep problems such as frequently waking up, tossing and turning, night sweats, and other issues. Even with these barriers, building (and trying your best to stick to) a regular bedtime routine will be your best bet when it comes to finally get to grips with your sleep.
All it takes is a bit of planning!
Think about your schedule - do you need to be up early in the morning? Will you be out late in the evening? Do you have a long day ahead? You know yourself best, so take some time to answer these questions, and we’ll get thinking. Based on your calculated recommended amount of sleep (or the average 7-9 hours), jot down at what time you should be asleep. For example, if you need to be up at 6 am, aim to be in bed by 11 pm at the latest. This will likely have to change day to day, due to varying work/life schedules, but any effort you put into this will make a difference!
For the night owls reading this, even shifting your bedtime earlier by half an hour can have a positive impact! Change shouldn't be immediate and drastic.
There are a few other factors to mention, that may help you improve your sleep - both in length and quality:
Having a relaxing routine before bed, which may include scented candles, calm music, reading, or meditation.
Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, and limiting alcohol intake.
Putting away electronic devices for half an hour before bed.
Choosing a supportive mattress, pillows, and blanket. Have a look into heated or weighted blankets - these can improve sleep quality!
All in all, sleep is a super important part of our daily routines - we spend almost ⅓ of our lives sleeping! It takes some dedication, time, and effort, but we at Curves are here to support you every step of the way.