I went to a conference last week, and one of the main topics discussed was the impact of sleep on health and nutrition. It is often an aspect of healthy living that may not get enough attention, so I thought I would share some key learnings with you.
1. Aim for around 7-8 hours
Unless you're going through puberty, then you need about an hour more!! Of course we will all be different, so listen to your body – but the majority of research shown suggested this was optimal for the majority of the population. Sleep efficiency / quality matters too – if you have a fitbit or something similar, aim for at least 85% efficiency.
2. Can you have too much sleep?
I actually thought there was research showing too much sleep is also bad, but having had a conversation with one of the researchers in the field of sleep, he said there wasn't much sound evidence to that effect ... So don't worry too much about having a lie in on the weekend. In fact, he said it is good to catch up on sleep if you've had a bit of deficit, and you can even "pre-load" on sleep if you know you'll have a night with insufficient sleep (e.g. an early morning flight, or a Christmas party perhaps!).
3. Sleep deprivation and appetite
Sleep deprivation causes changes in levels of your appetite hormones, including increased ghrelin (which enhances appetite) and lower lepton (which tells you when you're full) - probably the reason why you have more cravings for energy dense foods on a day after a bad night’s sleep.
4. Jet lag
You have a central body clock (the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain) which controls your circadian rhythms (the daily patterns of things like body temperature, hormones etc) ... But you also have "clocks" in various other organs, which can adapt to different time zones, mainly through consumption of food. So if your jet setting to a different time zone, try to adapt your organ clocks through eating meals at the time relevant to the local time as soon as possible to keep your bodies’ functioning in tune.
One thing I didn't like the answer too was a question I asked on daytime napping ... The answer was that it wasn't needed and normally meant something wasn't in order ... But apparently Einstein napped ... So I'm not going to stop if my eyes tell me I need one!!
A last interesting fact was that genetically we can either be a “morning person” or not - yes, it's actually proven! (Not quite sure how you test for it thought, I guess you just know if that's you - it certainly isn't me!!) … so don’t let others wind you up if you prefer a couple of minutes more kip in the morning, it’s not your fault, it’s your genes!
There was a large theme on meal timing and fasting at the conference, so stay tuned for a blog on this in the future!
So I guess all that is left to say is, sleep tight!!