In a poll this month, we asked Nutracheck members if they had experienced any changes in their sleep patterns over the last 12 months. Worryingly almost half said they were sleeping less or having disturbed sleep.
The ideal amount of sleep for most adults is 7-9 hours, as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Many of us get much less than this due to our busy lifestyles or disrupted sleep. And while we may be able to function on minimal sleep, it can harm our long term health.
In truth, it's not fully understood why we need the amount of sleep we do, but we do know that while we rest, our body does various important processes. It spends time repairing body tissue and releasing immune-boosting chemicals. Sleep is also essential for our brain to process and store memories, and it gives our brain time to process all the information that's been thrown at it throughout the day.
If we miss the odd night's sleep or have an occasional bad night, it's not a big deal. But if we continuously get an inadequate amount of sleep, the long term effects can be quite alarming!
Sleep deprivation isn't thought to directly cause us to put on weight, more that it results in behaviours that lead to weight gain. Plus, the longer you are awake, the greater the 'eating window' – that is, time available to consume more calories.
A lack of sleep has been linked to impaired appetite control and an increased desire to eat (particularly high-fat, high-sugar foods). Long term, this could lead to continued overeating and weight gain. This is borne out by another Nutracheck survey - we asked members 'Do your sleep patterns affect your food choices?' 54% said yes they were more likely to make unhealthy food choices, 25% said they ate more and only 17% were unaffected.
Researchers found that when people have had a bad night's sleep, their energy expenditure the following day is reduced. It completely stands to reason, if you're feeling tired, you're more likely to give your gym workout a miss.
We all have one of those nights where we don't sleep well, and it can really throw us off the following day. The key to not letting this derail your diet is to always be prepared! Here are some tips...
Getting enough good quality sleep is important in many ways. And if this is something you particularly struggle with, try our suggestions. Top tip – preparation! Remember to always be prepared and have healthy options on hand to avoid those sleepless 'snaccidents' that can lead to a diet derail!
Nutritionist Sophie Edgington (ANutr), BSc Nutrition is passionate about practising evidence-based nutrition and debunking the multitude of inaccurate myths that so readily surround food and health information. Her goal is to ensure we are all able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding our health.