We all know sleep is good for us but we also know we probably aren’t getting enough sleep. Sleep is one of the most under used tools that can help you become a fitter, healthier, better you. Sleep aids recovery, helps regulate hormone production and restores bones, organs and immune cells. Although some people can get away with 4-6 hours of sleep each night if they were to get more sleep they would feel more alert and be a lot more productive. It takes around 8 hours of sleep to rid the body of pollutants from urban living and if you can find a way to get at least 8 hours of sleep you’ll start feeling far more energised. If you want to lose weight fast increasing your sleep is one of the first changes you should make.

5 benefits of sleep

1. Best way to lose weight – people who are trying to lose weight fast are a lot more likely to lose muscle mass (rather than fat) if they don’t get enough sleep at the same time. If you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep the weight off long term you want to retain as much muscle mass as possible. Ensure you lose fat, rather than muscle, by increasing the amount of sleep you get.

2. Reduces risk of heart attack – more sleep can curb inflammation which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature ageing. Research has shown those people who get less than 6 hours of sleep a night are at a much higher risk of heart diseases than those who get more than 6 hours of sleep.

3. Hormone regulation – sleep is so important in regulating hormones. Everything from your alertness, mental health, hunger, weight loss and weight gain all stem from having your hormones working at an optimal level. Too little sleep directly affects both ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin sends signals to your brain telling you you’re hungry and it’s time to eat. If you’re sleep deprived the levels of ghrelin in your body are increased so you are likely to overeat. Whereas leptin tells your body not to eat. If you don’t have enough sleep leptin levels plummet and your brain will tell you you need to eat more. We also produce more growth hormone the more we sleep. Growth hormone helps with cell regeneration, reproduction and growth. This aids building muscle and leads to a higher metabolism. The higher your metabolism is the easier it is for weight loss.

4. Lowers stress – sleep and stress are directly related to one another and both can affect your cardiovascular health. More sleep reduces stress levels and in turn people are able to control their blood pressure a lot better.

5. Lowers risk of depression – sleeping improves overall health and well being. If you are generally an uptight or anxious person getting more sleep can reduce and alter your mood for the better. You cannot simply make up for more sleep at the weekends. You need to find a healthy balance between life and getting enough sleep.

How can you get more sleep?

Figure out your triggers. We all have them – for me I need to read before going to bed and then sleep in a completely blacked out environment. Living in London, there is always so much going on and I find I sleep much better if I am able to shut out all of the light and noise going on outside. Evidence suggests that the absence of any light in the room sends us into a deeper sleep. Plan a time to turn off the television, stay away from facebook and instagram and allow your mind to switch off.

Following a certain ritual will send triggers to your mind and start preparing your body for sleep. Triggers can be anything from reading, stretching, talking to someone, planning the following day or meditating. If you’re one of those people who needs tv to escape that may even be the trigger you need to allow your mind to switch off and set yourself up for sleep.

Whatever your trigger may be experiment with a few and try to find the best one that works for you. I cannot stress how much better you will feel and how much easier you will find it to achieve your health and fitness goals if you manage to get more sleep.

Want to know the best foods to eat to help your body function optimally? Take a look at our top 10 Superfoods!