Have you ever considered that the amount of sleep you get may be affecting your health?  Sleep is essential to our health and survival, it’s when our bodies go into rest and repair mode, so it’s just as important, if not more, than a good diet and exercise.  With late nights in front of the telly or the computer, 24 hour shopping, working shifts, going out socialising etc, the average adult is only getting around 7 hours sleep each night, some less than 6.5 hours, a good hour less than our ancestors used to get only a century ago.  If we were to remove all forms of artificial stimulation and excessive work/life demands, we would more than likely sleep for about 8-9 hours per night, based on the natural sleep/wake cycle of the brain.

When we’re tired and off guard we tend to make fewer healthy choices throughout the day, we reach for the quick-fix energy boost we need, often in the form of sugar-filled, processed snacks.   When we’re tired we’re also more than likely to skip the workout or the lovely long walk we had planned for the day.

For many people this is an ongoing cycle that’s tough to break, but adequate sleep sets the stage for everything else.  When it comes to body weight, it may be that if you snooze, you lose.  Lack of sleep seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and possibly to obesity.  According to a 2004 study, people who sleep less than 6 hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept 7-9 hours (strangely, any more than 9 hours had just the same effect as getting less than 6).  Not getting enough sleep can also put you more at risk of heart attack and strokes.

Recent research has focused on the link between sleep and the peptide hormones that regulate appetite. Ghrelin stimulates hunger and leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses the appetite.  Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin.  Not only does lack of sleep appear to stimulate appetite, it also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods and drives insulin resistance.

Sleep can also affect your immune function, ageing process, memory, learning and metabolism.  So getting enough sleep really is a big deal!  To get more sleep set a goal of what time you need to be in bed each night to get the 7-9 hours you need.

Some top tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Be consistent with going to bed and waking up times, and try to keep to a routine.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and relatively cool.
  • Keep caffeine to earlier in the day, and definitely not after 2pm.
  • Regular exercise can help improve sleep, but not just before bed!
  • Eat supper a good 2 hours before going to bed, and don’t over eat.
  • Have a relaxing herbal tea, or turmeric latte before you turn in.
  • Do a sleep/relaxation meditation to help let go of the day.

Try it this week and see if you notice a difference with your energy levels and your eating habits.  Don’t know about you, but I’m having an early night!