How are you sleeping?

One question that I always ask clients when they first start with me (and ongoing over the time we train together too) is how are you sleeping?

It is not just a question to fill in the time while resting between exercises, it is an important one to be asking.  How often do you think about your sleep?  Do you think about it at all?

Sleep is a vital component of a training program.  It is the time when our body refreshes itself, rebuilds itself.  If you are going through a phase where you are trying to build muscle, it isn't when you are lifting the weights in the gym that you build muscle, it is when you recover after those lifting sessions.

The training helps to break the muscle down so that when we rest and the body rebuilds the muscle, it rebuilds it bigger (if following the correct program) and stronger.  

Quality of sleep can also influence your success if trying to lose weight.  It does this in a couple of different ways.  Firstly, a lack of sleep can influence your cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a hormone that can impact our appetite.  So it is important to help the body to help us - get a good nights sleep on a regular basis to help keep cortisol levels in a healthy range.

Secondly, we tend to make worse food choices when we are tired.  If we are exhausted, making a healthy meal at home is difficult compared to picking up that bucket of fried chicken from the drive through on the way home from work.  So again, help yourself make good decisions, get some sleep!

Sleep also plays a big part in our mental health. Often when we have big issues on our minds the first thing we notice is that we either can't get to sleep or our sleep is broken.  When we are tired from a lack of quality sleep, everything seems harder in life, just getting up in the morning can be one of the hardest things to do!

It is important to notice how we are sleeping on a regular basis, keep a sleep journal if you want to be serious about it, but even just asking yourself "how have I been sleeping recently?" every few months is a useful exercise.

In terms of recovering from injuries sleep is incredibly important.  Firstly, fatigue and pain are interlinked.  The more fatigued you are, the more pain seems to be prevalent, and vice versa.  When you are in serious pain it can easily disrupt sleep.  These two interplaying scenarios can lead to both increased pain and increased fatigue, which tend to make people irritable and frustrated.  Not ideal situations when trying to rehabilitate an injury, especially a serious one.

So when was the last time you had a serious look at how you sleep? It plays a much more important role than you might think.

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