The Fitness Diaries
Amber Brammah is a personal trainer and founder of Lovefit, Cambridge. Mum to Milo and a pre and postnatal specialist, she helps women get back into bodies they love. This month, she talks about the importance of sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is a crucial part of overall health, as well as a vital piece in the fat-loss jigsaw. You can be doing everything right in the exercise and nutrition department, but if you’re not sleeping well, this can have a dramatic impact on your mood, performance and wellbeing.
I generally advise getting to bed by 10.30pm as regularly as possible, but what if you have trouble dropping off (and staying asleep)? Whilst it is common – normal, in fact - to wake occasionally for a short period during the night, lying awake for hours is not good practice.
Here are my DOs and DON’Ts for improving the quality of your sleep:
Stick to a regular bed time and wake-up time 7 days a week
Establishing a set routine is very helpful in maintaining homeostasis and reducing stress on the body. All those people who complain that their body clock wakes them up at 6.30am on a weekend should realise that this is their body’s way of telling them to get up.
Stress causes a rise in our cortisol levels, which keeps us alert. Try to manage the stressors in your life with relaxing practises such as yoga, meditation or even simple breathing exercises. Supplementing with magnesium can be helpful too.
Make the bedroom a relaxing, peaceful environment
Keep your bedroom as cool, de-cluttered and quiet as possible. Try diffusing essential oils such as calming lavender before you go to bed.
Ensure your room is pitch dark
We are incredibly sensitive to light and even the tiniest sliver of light through the curtains, or an LED on an appliance can disrupt our sleep patterns. So remove (or at least turn off) all electrical equipment, and consider investing in black-out blinds or a sleep-mask. Oh, and keep mobile phones out of the bedroom!
Take regular exercise
Physical activity ultimately leaves the body feeling tired and in need of rest. But be careful not to exercise too close to bedtime as your mind and body require time to wind down.
Spend enough time in bed
Sleep deprivation will lead to irritability, lethargy and general poor health, such as an increased susceptibility to illness. After a night’s sleep you should wake feeling refreshed and have sufficient energy to carry out your daily activities.
Lie in at the weekend
Many people view their weekends as a chance to ‘catch up’ on sleep, but this completely disrupts the patterns that your body has become accustomed to Monday to Friday and can negatively impact on the overall quality of your sleep.
Consume stimulants close to bedtime
I recommend avoiding caffeine after 2pm as it can stay in your system for many hours. Likewise, nicotine is a stimulant, so a pre-bed cigarette is likely to keep you awake. Alcohol often leads to broken sleep and has been shown to increase hot-flushes in peri-menopausal women.
Use the bedroom for any activity besides sleeping and sexual activities
As discussed, the bedroom should be a relaxing environment so refrain from working on your laptop, watching television, or eating. Keep the bedroom for sleeping (and a cuddle!) only.
Go to bed on an empty stomach, nor an overly full one
Trying to sleep when you have just eaten a large meal can leave you feeling uncomfortable. Going to bed when you’re hungry, however, is likely to keep you awake as your body craves food.
Ultimately, setting and maintaining a routine is key. Have a relaxing wind-down routine (such as having a bath) to prepare your body for rest and to encourage your body to recognise that you are getting ready for sleep. Hopefully it will be forthcoming.
Find out more about Amber and Lovefit at lovefittraining.com
Read moreHealth and Fitness
More by this authorVelvet Magazine contributor