The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is something that is very underrated in the modern world. I, myself, fall victim to lack of sleep the majority of the time. The importance of sleep may seem minor to some, but it is an integral part of growth within the body and also a very important factor of general health (both physical and mental). The exact amount required differs from person to person depending on various factors (mine, for example,  is mostly due to time management and also being a ‘night owl’ = more productivity comes to me in the night). However, for others, it could be that an early morning helps set the tone for the rest of the day and provides a productive mindset.

In this article, I will take a closer look at the benefits and the importance of sleep.

Types of sleep

Once you are asleep, there are 2 different ‘modes’ of sleep that you enter, known as REM and non-REM sleep. Both are linked to specific brain waves and neuronal activity.

REM Sleep = Rapid Eye Movement Sleep.

There are multiple stages of non-REM sleep and REM sleep that we enter throughout our sleep. 

Stage 1 of non-REM is the switch from being awake to now falling asleep and lasts for several minutes.

Stage 2 of non-REM is a period of light sleep before you enter deep sleep. You tend to enter this sleep stage the most times throughout the night.

Stage 3 is deep sleep time; this tends to last for longer periods.

REM sleep is the last stage to action, it occurs 90mins after falling asleep.

Impacts of sleep

Lack of sleep doesn’t just cause eye bags. It can also cause:

  • weight gain.
  • junk food cravings.
  • greater risk of heart diseases and/or strokes.
  • depression.

But what is a ‘lack of sleep’? 

The 8-hour rule is something that is discussed heavily and I’ve always considered it to be a myth. Getting 8 hours of sleep does have its benefits, however, some of us are lucky to get 6 on a good day (me)!

From research, the optimum amount can depend on your own internal body clock. While 8 hours to someone may be great, 8 hours to you may not be sufficient. This is what can lead to what is known as ‘oversleeping’ which can actually make you feel more tired.

Anything under 8 hours doesn’t necessarily mean you will experience any of these things, but it still be a major participant to an unhealthy lifestyle.

Lack of sleep can also be a factor that can hinder muscle growth. As we know, rest days are a very important factor in our workout routines, as they provide the muscles the chance to rebuild and repair, helping to prevent injury and strain on muscles.

Benefits of a good sleep

It may seem obvious, but there undoubtedly more pros than cons to getting a good night’s sleep.

Here are some benefits:

  • Improve productivity throughout the day.
  • Muscle repair & growth.
  • Feeling refreshed.
  • Enables you to perform activities better e.g., weight training, normal workload etc…
  • Improves your immune system.
  • Limits cravings for unhealthy foods.
  • Provides a healthier lifestyle.

Tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine and alcoholic drinks before bed. 
  • Try to relax the mind e.g., read a book, take a bath.
  • Reduce ‘blue light’ exposure in the evenings = computer, phone usage.
  • Try and create a sleeping pattern, so the body can naturally fall asleep around a certain time.

How sleep can affect physical workouts

According to studies, people with a poor sleeping pattern tend not to exercise as often, or struggle to fit in adequate time to exercise. I know from my own experience that it is very hard to function and get the best out of a workout when running on a low amount of sleep. To get the best out of your workouts, it’s important to have a good sleep and to reap the rewards of the workout, and to get gains – it’s important to have a good sleep after a workout.

How sleep can affect mental health

Again, now knowing how important sleep is to our internal system – it is also important to our brain functions too. This image below explains the cycle pretty well…

Simply put, the more sleep you have the better. Tiredness can cause mood swings and it can negatively affect your mindset as well as your actions. There’s a saying that I’ve always followed, and it relates to physical fitness as well as mental:

If you don’t pick a day to relax, your body will pick it for you.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is one of the most important factors within body functions. Not enough sleep can literally stop body functions. How much sleep you require is ultimately a personal decision, but skipping sleep or not getting quality sleep – whether intentional or unintentional – can have a huge impact on health and wellbeing.

Want to talk to me about a personalised approach to your fitness? Drop me a line via Linkedin


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