Sleep… And Why it is So Important

Jarrod Wilson (Exercise Physiologist – Burnie)

We all know what it feels like to be tired and we can easily recognise when we haven’t got enough sleep.

But why is a good sleep so important?

Firstly sleeping is essential to stay alive – we simply cannot avoid it! It regulates our physical, psychological, emotional and social well-being. It increases energy levels, it lowers stress and it improves our mood. It also helps with weight management and helps to regulate hormones within the body. It allows us to retain learnt information and improves our memory. Good quality sleep is associated with improved work productivity and can improve physical performance in other aspects of life.

On the contrary it has been shown time and again that poor sleep hygiene can have detrimental effects on our health. One review in the literature revealed that those adults that sleep poorly are 55% more likely to become obese. A separate study showed that poor sleep is directly related to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Let’s have a look briefly at how sleep is associated with another very common health problem, Type 2 Diabetes.

Sleep and Type 2 Diabetes

There is a higher prevalence of sleep disorders (poor quantity and quality of sleep) in the diabetic population.

The circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock) plays an important role in metabolism. Short or long duration sleep can result in a significantly increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and is associated with higher HBA-1C (average measure of glucose in blood over a standardised time – usually 3 months).

Sleep Duration

It has been shows that 7-8 hours of sleep per night equates to the lowest risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

Short or long duration sleep can result in a significantly increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and is associated with higher HBA-1C (average measure of glucose in blood over a standardised time – usually 3 months).

Greater weight and weight gain is associated with people who sleep longer durations, and there may be a relationship between this and an increased Type 2 Diabetes risk.

Longer sleep duration associated with a higher prevalence of hypertension and poor glycaemic control in people with Diabetes, compared with a sleep duration of 6-7.9hrs/n.

Sleep Quality

Poor sleep quality is associated with an increased HBA-1C.

It has been found that night shift work is associated with poorer glucose control in people with Type 2 Diabetes (independent of age, BMI, insulin use, sleep duration, morning-ness/evening-ness preference and % of daily intake of CHO).

So How Much Sleep is Necessary?

You have no doubt heard many answers to the question “how much sleep do we need”. There is no specific answer, as the right amount varies between individuals and there are many variables that need to be considered. Generally speaking the recommendation for ‘normal sleep’ is between 7-9 hours per night for people aged 18-64 years old. For those over the age of 65, the recommendation is 7-8 hours per night. Younger children require more sleep time.

Why is Exercise Important?

Exercise helps our sleeping patterns in a variety of ways and has been shown to enhance sleep quality and duration in all ages. It is well established that exercise has a profound positive effect on anxiety and stress, two common reasons why people do not sleep well. Studies have also demonstrated that exercise can help with chronic insomnia.

What Time of the Day is Best to Exercise?

The good news is that there is no ‘right’ time to exercise. Whatever time of the day suits you best is a good time to exercise. Research even shows that exercising of an evening does not negatively influence your sleeping pattern.

My Tips:

So now that you are aware of what a poor night’s sleep can potentially lead to, here are my top 7 tips to improve your sleep health and hygiene:

1 Aim for 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night.

2 Create a consistent daily routine.

3 Exercise regularly (ideally consistent timing of exercise).

4 Have a similar pre-bed ritual each night.

5 Try and get to bed at the same time each night.

6 Associate the bedroom with sleep (try and avoid other activities in the bedroom).

7 Attempt to manage other issues that can negatively affect sleep, e.g. stress, anxiety (thoughts); health conditions/pain; discomfort; sensory information (noise, light other disturbances); food/drinks (avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol in the hours before bed-time).

If you would like to know more information about sleeping and the associated benefits of exercise, contact one of our Exercise Physiologists who can show you the way to a better night’s sleep. Call Coastal Physiotherapy on 64314586.

Otherwise good luck and good night!

References

1 Kara, S. (2020). https://exerciseright.com.au/what-is-sleep-hygiene-and-why-is-it-important/. [Blog] WHAT IS SLEEP HYGIENE AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?. Available at: https://exerciseright.com.au/what-is-sleep-hygiene-and-why-is-it-important/ [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].

2 Price, S. (2019). https://exerciseright.com.au/can-exercise-help-you-sleep-better/. [Blog] CAN EXERCISE HELP YOU SLEEP BETTER?. Available at: https://exerciseright.com.au/can-exercise-help-you-sleep-better/ [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].

3 Barnes, J. (2018). https://exerciseright.com.au/the-importance-of-sleep/. [Blog] THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP. Available at: https://exerciseright.com.au/the-importance-of-sleep/ [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].