Sleep is the force multiplier for life; without the right amount of quality sleep, it’s very difficult to take care of the other key aspects of health – mental health, energy, body composition, digestion and fitness (what we call the Six Signals®). The right amount of sleep is very subjective – some can genuinely survive on 4 hours a night (there is a genetic variant that enables people to function on this little sleep but it is rare!), and most people need between 6-8 hours to function well. It often surprises me when people tell me they sleep well, yet when I drill down into it they actually have very broken and insufficient amounts of sleep.
We commonly think of a sleep disorder as insomnia, but in fact it can include other, perhaps less severe forms of sleep disruption such as getting up in the night to use the toilet, taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, having difficulty waking in the morning and feeling groggy. All of these are examples of a sleep disorder.
Our sleep cycles are governed by our circadian rhythms. Our circadian rhythm is guided by a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and is largely dictated by natural light, and hormones. On waking, we should get natural light onto our retinas and skin as soon as possible. Our levels of the hormones cortisol and serotonin will be at their highest to prepare us for the day. As the day progresses, our cortisol levels decline, and by sundown, a hormone called melatonin kicks in to prepare our bodies for sleep. Modern life has made this natural process quote convoluted however – blue light from phones, tablets and televisions and the harsh bright light of the light bulb means our circadian rhythms are disrupted, causing problems with sleep. But, there are things we can do to mitigate this – read on!
If you’re reading this, you’re are probably in a reasonably senior position, running your own business or have a busy life running the home and juggling other responsibilities. Either way, you’re busy. The convergent pressures of work and family life have probably meant that the time you did have to spend on health and fitness has disappeared.
Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit www.bodyshotperformance.com or email [email protected] to register your interest in our services and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.