health and sleep

Health and Sleep: The power of naps!

 I love sleep.  Who doesn’t?  Especially those with young children know the true value of blissful uninterrupted sleep! 

Sleep is an essential part of the whole physical and mental well being puzzle – nutrition, exercise , REST!    Are you getting your 8 hours sleep per night on a regular basis? 

Sleep deprivation has a negative effect on all aspects of life from impaired concentration, immune system, memory,  increased pain response and low sex drive.

Weight gain is another factor often resulting from poor quality sleeping patterns.  This is mainly down to hormones (proteins) called Leptin and Ghrelin.  Lower Leptin levels with higher levels of Ghrelin often contribute to weight gain.  How so? Well, have you ever found yourself craving high calorie snacks in the evening after a long day’s work? It usually isn’t because you are genuinely hungry. You’re tired. The body has to get its energy from somewhere – ideally recharging during sleep. However, with today’s super busy lifestyles managing to have a nap when you’re tired just  isn’t practical. 

health and sleep

Most of us would kill for a little nap mid- afternoon at work. But we can’t. So the next quick fix is to cram in the calories, namely from sugar with a strong coffee.  Leptin, among other functions in the body, tells you when you’re full and Ghrelin tells you when to eat.  When you’re sleep deprived Leptin levels go down, Ghrelin levels go up, resulting in food cravings because the body simply wants more energy.

 From my own experience and speaking to new Mums  – why most new mums struggle with baby weight is because…by the time the actual baby weight would have naturally come off, they’ve eaten weight back on by grabbing food in between feeds and nappy changes while desperately trying to stay awake. ( Been there, done that…got 3 T-shirts!) 

Missing out on a good nights  8 hours un interrupted sleep  on a regular basis accumulates sleep debt. Just like a loan. You have to pay it off and catch up.  If the opportunity to nap during the day arises, take it! Short naps of 20 minutes are beneficial. This is the  NREM (non-rapid eye movement) stage of sleep , where the body regenerates and repairs tissue, bone, muscles and strengthens the immune system – they don’t call it “Beauty sleep” for nothing!.  The REM (rapid eye movement) stage,  a deeper phase of sleep where dreaming occurs.  If you’ve ever woken up groggy after a nap, chances are you entered REM and instead of taking a little nap, you had a full on sleep! Well you must have needed it!

 Remember next time you crave junk in the evening…get an early night! Take time to wind down, turn off computers, TV, phones(!)  Have a little quiet time before bed time.  Make it a habit.

Sleep tight AMBER X

Ollie Lawrence
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