Sleep is as important to the health of your body as breathing is. Sleep deprivation causes profound damage not only to your physical health but also to your mental health. This does not apply just to the ability of your brain to function properly but it also affects your mood and the way you feel. Chronic sleep deprivation can even trigger manic behaviors in susceptible people. It is no wonder that it has been used as a method of torture for centuries.
Lack of sleep will lower your defenses against disease and sleep deprivation has been shown to exponentially increase the chances of death from many other causes.
While the amount of sleep each person needs does vary somewhat, the quality of this is also a factor. When a body is severely deprived of sleep it will override all attempts to stay awake including the use of stimulants. The body will experience a few seconds or minutes of “Micro sleep” something like the symptoms of narcolepsy. The effect this can have on a person driving or operating machinery needs no explanation.
How lack of sleep can lead to obesity
While lack of sleep makes you feel awful, the effects reach further than first thought. Research has shown that lack of sleep can even promote obesity, almost as much as over eating and doing no exercise.
When a body needs sleep it produces cortisol and the production of leptin decreases. Leptin is the hormone that sends messages to your brain telling it that you have eaten enough. Lack of sleep increases production of ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant. Along with an increased release of insulin it promotes fat storage, resulting in weight gain, which naturally increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. An increase in cortisol in the body has been shown to significantly increase deposits of “belly fat.”
We all know that good nutrition is vital for growth and recovery. These processes are carried out while the body is sleeping. Great nutrition must include essential minerals. Research has shown that a lack of magnesium profoundly affects sleep patterns. People lacking magnesium often tend to be insomniac. Other signs of a low magnesium level are muscle cramps, muscle tics (like twitching eyelids) and cold extremities. Magnesium supplementation significantly improves sleep. Zinc, another essential mineral, stimulates enzymes responsible for biochemical reactions in the body. It is vital in the processes of recovery. Trauma to muscle tissue during exercise is repaired during sleep and muscles are rebuilt to be more powerful than before. Therefore quality sleep promotes strength and endurance.
How to get some good sleep
Since sleep is so vital, it is important to develop good habits. Your Circadian rhythm (biological clock) needs to be set and sleeping at irregular times will disturb the rhythm and have an effect like jet lag.
Your sleeping space needs to be comfortable, quiet and sleep specific, avoid intense discussions or arguments before bedtime. It is also not wise to have any screen time close to bedtime. Even having electronic equipment close to your bed is discouraged. The lights glowing from these suppresses the production of melatonin, which is a hormone that promotes sleep.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol; it takes up to six hours to eliminate these from your system. Alcohol can make you sleepy but it affects the quality of any sleep you are likely to get. Herbal teas are a better option. Sleeping pills also do not promote real quality sleep.
If all else fails, try counting sheep! Goodnight.
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