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Sleep is the inactivity that is very good for you but in this 24/7 world of ours, it is often sidelined and sacrificed.
Without enough of the right sleep we function far below par.
A good sleep is a basic human need to recharge and unwind, to relax and escape, to allow the brain to work independently through the events of the day, meticulously sorting, solving and storing them for future retrieval.
Bad sleeps are downright draining, exhausting and stressful. Sleep deprivation is torture, according to the Geneva Convention, yet many adults subject themselves to short spells of sleep deprivation.
The natural drivers for sleep are powerful.
You may have felt them as jet lag where local time is in total conflict with your body's time, when sleep calls but the local clock says it is daytime. You see it in night shift workers who battle against sleepiness on the job. And have noticed your body and brain craving a sleep-in to 'catch-up' after a big late night out or a crazy busy week.
You may wonder why a dietitian is writing about sleep. It is because I explore varied aspects of life that impact on body weight, food intake and metabolic health. Sleep is one of those.
The links between sleep and appetite regulation, energy levels, body weight and weight regain can not be ignored.
Sleep and excess body fat are connected but researchers can not confidently determine which comes first, the poor sleep or the excess weight, and whether one causes the other. Does poor sleep contribute to obesity or is obesity contributing to poor sleep?
The role of a poor night's sleep in causing excessive weight gain is hard to measure and uncertain. It is a bit like the chicken and the egg story.
But from my study of different sleep lab's research, it seems obvious that poor sleep and weight gain work in an ever tightening knot. The more weight gained, the poorer the sleep quality. The poorer the sleep, the more likely is weight gain.
While the sleep scientists do further research to discover how body fat and sleep are interconnected, I will let you in on some better news about sleep and body weight.
New research shows that good sleep is shaping up as one of the essentials to prevent weight regain.
A better sleep helps reduce the unhappy likelihood of regaining lost weight
In a world, where sunrise and sunset barely influence the human body's natural sleep cycle. A world where there are not enough hours in the day to do what you have to do. Sleep seems sacrificial.
The length of sleep needed changes with age.
Everyone needs enough good quality sleep that is not constantly disrupted.
How much sleep do you need?
Are you an exception who needs fewer than 7 hours sleep? Or is it just your perception that you get by on less?
An extra hour or two of sleep could well make the world of difference to how you function, your mood and the health of your body.
Sleep is one inactivity that could help prevent unhealthy weight regain.
Make it an aim to improve both the quality and length of your sleep if you have been short changing your body.
Work on ways to better manage the aspects of better sleep that are in your control.
The keys to a good sleep go well beyond a comfortable mattress and pillow.
At the extreme, you could double glaze the windows and install soundproofing but seriously, there are a few simpler and less expensive solutions to improve sleep quality. Read my top 10 Simple Sleep Well Tips to Improve Sleep. Use them straight away.
Take advantage of holidays to reset your body and brain towards a better sleep cycle. You will find that it helps keep your body in better overall shape.
Combine a good sleeping pattern with active fun for your body and mind. Add a diet of foods that nourish your body to maximise your health further. To see how much to eat and what food serves and portions look like, get a copy of my book 'this=that: a life-size photo guide to food serves'.