How much sleep do I need? How can bad sleep effect me?

Are you getting Enough sleep at night?

In this fast pasted often hectic modern world, sleep is an activity that is often over looked. Many of us utilise this time to catch up on work, exercise, TV programs, social media and computer / video games.

Adequate sleep plays a key role in weight loss. Numerous studies have linked inadequate sleep to weight gain, increased stress, irritability, moodiness and depression.

Did you know sleeping fewer than 7 hours a night of sleep can cause the following

  • An increased appetite and hunger – often due to environmental and behavioural cues such as shift workers eating to keep awake or for something to do (boredom eating).

  • An increase in carvings for high carbohydrate, high kilojoule foods

  • A slow down of metabolism so more fat essentially is stored in the body.

  • Tiredness, fatigue, lack of motivation and energy

  • Increased levels of stress hormones

  • Increases in insulin resistance that can lead to type 2 diabetes / further progress severity of diabetes.

Insomnia and other common sleeping problems are often caused by years of poor sleeping behaviours. You can greatly improve your sleeping habits by adjusting 4 key factors;

  1. Getting in an effective routine

  2. Manipulating sleeping environment

  3. Adjusting lifestyle

  4. Avoid resorting to drugs/medication.

Getting into an effective routine

Improving your sleep, means tapping into your internal body clock. Aim to get up at the same time every day and go to sleep at the same time each night. This routine will help set your body clock.

Effective Routine

To further assist with setting your body clock – spend some time outdoors in the early morning sunlight; this will further cement this habit. Tiredness and drowsiness are our body’s way of signalling it’s time for some rest and ZZZZ’s. Avoid going to bed if you don’t feel tired as lying awake can reinforce poor sleeping habits.

Sleep Environment

Manipulating sleeping environment

If we’re going to spend 7-8 hours sleeping then investing in a comfortable mattress is going to be a good idea. Many of us don’t think twice on spending money on electronics such as televisions and home entertainment (cable TV, etc).

Ensure sleeping clothing, bedding and room temperatures are comfortable. Use the bedroom for sleep and intimacy, making sure the room is dark and quiet. Avoid watching TV, talking on the phone, finishing work off and using electronics as these activities can dissociate the environment as a space for relaxation and sleep.

Adjust lifestyle

Keep to a schedule; don’t nap during the day time hours. Allow 1 hr prior to sleep to unwind and relax your mind and body – taking a shower/bath, avoiding any activities that are mentally stimulating.

Lifestyle

Tea, coffee, soft drinks or chocolate are caffeinated foods and caffeine is a stimulant, substitute with warm milk to avoid upset sleep. Exercise every day, but not too close to bedtime.

Medication

Avoid resorting to medication/drugs were possible

Cigarettes contain nicotine which is a stimulant and just like coffee it too could unset sleeping habits. Smoking before bed can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which will further disrupt your sleep.

Alcohol may make you feel sleepy and doze off, however it too can disrupt sleeping rhythms, as likely to have to get up regularly due to thirst and or to go to the toilet. Sleeping medication should only be used under strict medical advice. There are limitations with taking sleeping medication such as causing day time sleepiness and they can make you reliant on them to fall asleep. Finding the cause/s of what’s causing irregular sleep is more effective long term and addressing, then a short term fix such as medication.

Nutrigenomics as an emerging science

Nutritional genomics (also referred to as nutrigenomics or nutrigenetics) evaluates how your genetic makeup responds to your diet. Nutrigenomics attempts to use molecular structures to identify how nutrients and bioactive food compounds alter DNA transcription processes which affect the expression of genes. If you could turn a fat burning gene on with a specific type of diet due to your genetic make-up – that’d be invaluable!

Nutrigenomics attempts to raise awareness for your individual genes by upregulating critical metabolic pathways, ultimately affecting your health.

The main goal of this research is to identify the optimal dietary intake to prevent damage to the genome (set of genes/chromosomes). It is believed that damage to the genome is among the fundamental causes of infertility, developmental defects, cancer and neurodegenerative disease. Researchers believe we need to start viewing foods and diets in terms of their content of genome protective nutrients.

Current nutrition recommendations are based on epidemiologic research and physiology. Nutrigenomics uses genetics and molecular biology to analyse individual’s risks, what is increasing these risks and allow personalised nutrition therapy recommendations.

The bottom line is that nutrigenomics whilst highly promising may not be cost effective for a long time. We are starting to see the advent of cheap DNA tests through saliva and hair samples but for the vast majority of people, the nutritional protocol will still involve eating more fruits, vegetables and lean meats!

We suggest that nutrigenomics is an effective tool for non-responders to weight loss diets and high caliber athletes who are looking for that extra 1% in performance. Otherwise, for the vast majority of us simple habits and food choices will lead to our desired weight loss!

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