While you were sleeping

Sleep your way to health.

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September 12, 2023
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min read

Your body doesn't switch off when you shut your eyes – it's working for your mood, weight loss and overall wellbeing. Here's how:

  • Sleep is as essential as keeping fit and eating well.
  • Sleep is the third part of a healthy lifestyle along with healthy eating and regular exercise.
  • Sleep plays a role in weight management.

Research shows that people who slept eight and a half hours a night lost almost twice as much weight as people who got five and a half hours sleep each night. And women with poor sleep habits gain more weight than women who sleep well too. So if your weight has hit a plateau or the scales are creeping up, you might want to reassess your sleeping habits. Without enough sleep your hormones are out of whack and you body craves sugar, fat and high-GI foods.

Sleep resets your brain

When you sleep, your brain 'resets' itself for the next day. Poor sleep means your brain will be operating at sub-par levels during the day. You probably won't think as well, you might make bad decisions and you'll have poorer reaction times. This can be dangerous, especially when it comes to activities such as driving. Put simply, you'll be a poorer version of yourself. The other thing a lack of sleep can contribute to is your mood. Without good sleep you can end up irritable, snappy and teary, which impacts on your personal and professional relationships.

Your body will try to compensate by tapping into the adrenal glands and sending hits of cortisol, the 'stress hormone', to the body, which acts like little caffeine shots. While this may work in the short-term, it's not good in the long run as frequent spikes in cortisol can lead to high blood pressure and weight gain. Cortisol-withdrawal is also the reason why even after having a great sleep following a few nights of poor sleep, you still feel tired. Your body is coming down from the effects of increased cortisol.

Consistent good sleep promotes a healthy heart and helps you stay well too

Getting enough shut-eye each night can lead to a significant reduction in the incidence of heart disease. People who exercise, eat well, drink moderately and don't smoke have a 57 per cent lower risk of developing heart disease compared to those who don't have these healthy behaviours. Throw regular nights of good sleep into the mix and that risk reduction jumps to 65 per cent.

It’s not just your heart that’s affected by your sleep habits. Many chronic diseases can be linked to long-term poor sleep, too, such as diabetes, stroke and depression. Long-term short sleepers have an overall increased risk of mortality. Some research also indicates that sleep helps regulate your immune system, and that a lack of sleep reduces the amount and effectiveness of the natural bug killers your body produces. If you’re consistently getting less than five-and-a-half hours of sleep a night, your immune system suffers.

Take control of your sleep. If you are having trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep talk to your GP.

Source: WeightWatchers.Co.NZ, Prof David Hillman from Sleep Health Foundation and Dr Ginni Mansberg.