rest We've heard it a billion times, make sure you sleep well for around 8 or so hours each night. Why? And why is it so important to our body composition.

When we sleep, and predominantly between 10pm - 2am we are releasing loads of lovely Growth Hormone along with other anabolic hormones such as Testosterone and Melatonin. When we train in the gym we are in a catabolic state, a state of breaking down our tissue. It is the anabolic rebound that builds us lean and strong, and this rebound takes place when we rest and especially when we sleep.

 I can hear fist pumps around the world! Those same anabolic hormones are also powerful fat burning hormones, particularly our friend Growth Hormone. If we are sleeping restfully our stress hormone cortisol should be sitting at its baseline allowing for anabolic processes to take place. Cortisol = catabolic, or breaking down, unfortunately it doesn't mean breaking down fat necessarily.

Through some pesky hormonal signals, tiredness makes us want to eat, and usually makes us want to eat lots of bad food. Have you ever heard of a really tired person craving a salad?

 A healthy mind wants to go to the gym and eat well. It becomes more difficult to motivate ourselves if we are struggling with things like depression or general mental fatigue. Between 2am - 6am we are undergoing some major psychological repair, so it's important to be resting well during these times.

A physically repaired body (10pm - 2am) and psychologically repaired body (2am - 6am) is ready to go for a whole day's activity, including training. Intensity = more calories burnt and bigger weights lifted, but if you can't muster the intensity due to poor sleep then you're missing out on these key parts to training.

What you did this morning may have a direct affect on how you sleep tonight? Waking up is stimulated by C.A.R, The Cortisol Awakening Response. This cortisol spike has a half life through the day dropping to a baseline level in the evening to assist in a restful sleep. When this cortisol level is disrupted it can affect our sleep.

So those 3 coffees you had before 9am will push your cortisol curve higher and it will take longer to drop. Your 3pm coffee is still having an effect on your body when you go to bed. I recommend cutting your coffee at midday and having no more than 2 a day. The same thing applies to zingy supplements like fat burners and other pre and post formulations. Even things like the orange colouring in drinks can affect our nervous systems ability to rest.

Adrenal fatigue AKA burnout can affect sleep. If we have hit burnout and our cortisol is TOO LOW we will struggle to sleep also.

Your metabolism and diet can affect your sleep. Ever woken up with night sweats? This may (but not in all cases) be due to a cortisol and insulin spike trying to make some blood glucose from your hard earned muscle.

Stressors on the body affect our ability to sleep. Even training at 7pm is adding a stress hormone spike on the body that may affect how well you sleep that night. Worrying about finances, study, relationships etc are all things that can affect how well we sleep. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a great exercise to do every day to help wind the system down.

There are lots of theories such as cheese gives you a bad sleep, or celery, turkey or warm milk helps you sleep. At the end of the day if you're body is under a stress attack this should be the first point of call. A balanced body and mind will be able to sleep when you tell it, whether it's 9pm or 10pm.

Everyone is different, so your sleep issue may be different to someone else's. Here is one last thought for you also, we may be sleeping, but if we are still waking up tired then the sleep may not have been quality, and that again boils down to what your hormones are up to behind your back while you're asleep.

Stacey Hancock
January 2012

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