The Power of Sleep
We're calling for a sleep revolution.
Leading the way for a sleep revolution is Shawn Stevenson, author, scientist and health-guru who has grabbed our attention with his fascinating talk to Google HQ.
Revolutionising the way we think about sleep has so much importance on our livelihoods; from stress levels, memory, and performance, to weight loss, appearance and happiness. As Shawn so emotively expresses, it's not necessarily about sleeping for longer, it's about sleeping smarter. We need to cultivate a mindset and approach to sleep that will work for us and in turn reap so many rewards. Maybe sleep isn't a sexy topic, but as Shawn so pointedly questions, don't we all want to be more productive, don't we all want to look good?
Many of us are channeled into an unwavering mindset of working tirelessly, pushing harder, being proactive, and then aiming to reap the rewards. In tandem to our hectic working lives, there's a common drive to get fitter, healthier, and be all-round super-humans. And often, it's thought that exercising more, and eating less of the bad stuff, will lead to this optimum health and fitness. Sleep rarely gets a look in on the equation. Success, success, success is a constant goal, and sleep can so easily be sidelined to achieve this. However, as Shawn so aptly analyses, sleep has such influence over these many different processes. It's not just the obvious energy levels that sleep contributes to, but also weight loss and muscle gain, hunger levels, brain efficiency and memory.
To tease you with just some of the interesting insights given in Shawn's talk, the University of Chicago discovered that individuals who had more sleep, around the 8 hours mark, lost 55% more body fat on the same regime as those who only slept for 5 1/5 hours. We need this valuable sleep time to activate our Human Growth Hormone, helping to build leaner muscle tissue. With sleep deprivation, we elevate our cortisol levels which turns these proteins we've worked so hard to build into glucose. To add to this, one night of poor quality sleep leads to a 15% increase in the body's ghrelin levels which controls our body's hunger hormone. When we're sleep deprived there's a 6% reduction of glucose to the brain, so no wonder we go in search of those pesky sugary pick me ups as a substitute!
How do we ensure, therefore, that we are getting the optimum amount of high-quality sleep? Caffeine curfews, eating well with more potassium and magnesium, morning exercise to reset our cortisol rhythms, accepting that we're addicted to our smartphones and making sure we switch off, orgasms and more sex! They are all ways we can improve our sleep. However, it will take a sleep revolution to implement this. We're in a mindset of pushing, pushing, pushing and refusing to give in to sleep. Stepping away and re-setting our cycles is never an easy task, even though with just a few little steps we may help to get those sleeping brain waves back to a sound state.
If we want success we need to treat sleep as our friend, not the enemy. Science is smart. Sleep is smart. So let's be smarter about our sleep too.
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Words by Lottie Franklin