Bodycoach Q&A

Joe Wicks - The Bodycoach
We got together with Joe Wicks, the Body Coach to talk about why sleep is so important to our overall health and how it can impact upon our ability to lose weight and stay fit. You might be surprised to find out just how important sleep is if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, read on for tips on what you can do to make sure you make the most of your workouts.

Sadly there is no silver bullet for long-term sleeplessness and generally, professional intervention is required to help overcome acute insomnia. However, there are a few things we can all do to help get a better night’s sleep and prevent sleep loss from becoming chronic. 

Get some daylight and fresh air. In order for our body clock to work well we need to send messages about when is daytime and when is nighttime. The best way to do this is to get plenty of light during the day and dark at night.

Stick to a good routine. This sounds simple but it’s the most effective way to sleep well. Our body clock is just that, a clock. In order for it to work at its best we should create a steady rhythm and stick to it. This way our bodies know when to expect to fall asleep and will prepare to do so.

Don’t lie in bed awake. If you cant get to sleep or have woken up in the middle of night, get out of bed. The longer we lie in bed trying to fall back to sleep the more frustrated we get. This, in turn, means we begin to subconsciously relate bed to feeling stressed and being awake rather than asleep.  Leave the bedroom and do something relaxing like read a book downstairs, then when you are tired go back to bed.

Stop clockwatching. This increases the pressure to fall back to sleep and makes it less likely.

Don’t stress about it. Worst case scenario you will be tired and we have all been tired before. The more pressure we put on ourselves to sleep well the harder it become so don’t overthink it!

From helping us to function more effectively during the day, to helping stick to a healthy lifestyle and exercise routine, the positives of a good night’s sleep are many and varied. Here are just a few of, what I believe, are the key benefits:

1. More Alertness and Energy.

Waking up properly rested will greatly increase energy levels, alertness and ability to concentrate.

2. Less Stress

A well rested body generally produces less of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline so we are able to handle difficult situations more effectively.

3. Weight Loss and Rest

Getting a good night’s sleep can balance out the hormone fluctuations that provoke appetite. In fact, having proper rest is one of the best things we can do for HYPERLINK “”losing weight. By ditching late-night TV, also has the added benefit of dodging one of those diet destroying late-night junk food binges as well.

4. Sleep Improves Happiness

Sleeping allows our brain time to rebalance the chemicals and hormones that affect our mental clarity, mood and emotions and which are so important for being calm, relaxed and happy. With lack of sleep so strongly associated with depression and mental illness, it’s not hard to see how getting an early night and some deep sleep can lead to a better day tomorrow.

There are a wide number of factors that lead to sleep loss, but whatever the reason for poor sleep, the effect is the same: your body’s natural cycle of sleep and wake is disrupted.

Factors that can lead to insomnia include bigger life stresses like moving house, starting a new job or illness, but can also be caused by less obvious stresses like small changes in your surroundings – such as extra noise at night.

Often people are unaware of why their poor sleep started and in truth, it doesn’t really matter – the focus needs to be on how to fix it. When we suffer with poor sleep we often end up making things worse by changing our behaviours to compensate for poor sleep. For example we start going to bed too early and end up lying in bed wide awake;  we drink lots of caffeine to stay awake which stops us falling asleep later on and so on.

Poor sleepers also clockwatch – we’ve all laid in bed, frustrated and calculating how much potential sleep we have before we have to get up. This all just creates anxiety, frustration and increased stress levels – ultimately keeping us awake for longer, and compounding our initial insomnia.

The debate around achieving a healthy weight always revolves around eating and movement. The most common suggestion is “eat less and move more.” But it’s not that simple, or even accurate. Sometimes you want to eat less and move more, but it seems impossible to do so (we’ve definitely all been there!). And there might be a good reason: Between living your life, working, and exercising, you’re forgetting to sleep enough.

Sleep impacts on our weight loss and gain in a number of ways. Firstly it affects your body’s ability to properly use insulin. When insulin is working well in our body, our fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from the blood stream, preventing fat storage. However, within just four days of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to use insulin properly becomes severely disrupted.

The second way sleep impacts on weight loss is on our appetite. Many people believe that hunger is related to willpower and learning to control the call of your stomach, but that’s not true. Actually, sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of your brain that increases your need for food – we’ve all reached for the carbs the day after a late night.

In fact sleep deprivation is a little like being drunk. You don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions about the foods you eat—or the foods you want to avoid. The bottom line: Not enough sleep means you’re always hungry, reaching for bigger portions, and craving food that is bad for you—and you don’t have the proper brain functioning to tell yourself, “No!”

The impact of poor sleep spreads beyond diet and into our workouts. No matter what a person’s fitness goals are, having muscle is important – and lack of sleep is the arch nemesis of muscle. It decreases our body’s ability to make muscle, causes muscle loss, and can lead to injuries.

And of course, If you’re someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy exercise, a bad nights sleep can make matters even worse. When you’re suffering from sleep debt, everything you do feels more challenging, especially your workouts.

Everyone’s individual sleep needs vary. Most healthy adults are built for 16 hours of wakefulness and need an average of eight hours of sleep a night. However, some individuals are able to function well after as few as six hours of sleep, while others can’t perform at their peak unless they’ve slept for ten hours.

We tend to expect too much from our sleep. We expect to wake up and be full of the joys of spring and for that feeling to last all day. In truth, while we may feel energetic in the morning, an afternoon lull is quite normal. For me, a good nights sleep is when you fall asleep easily and sleep until your alarm goes off; and if you wake in the night, you fall back to sleep quite quickly. If you are unable to stay awake throughout the day, this is a good indicator that you are probably sleep deprived

Poor sleep affects fitness and wellness more than people might think. Not sleeping enough – less than seven hours per night – can reduce or even undo the benefits of dieting. A lack of sleep makes you feel tired and groggy, and it does the same thing to your fat cells. I like to call this “Metabolic Grogginess” and it makes your body less effective at breaking down fatty tissues. In fact, those who regularly sleep for less than six hours per night are 30% more likely to become obese than those who sleep between seven and nine hours.

Sleeping better also makes it easier to eat healthily. If you’re sleep-deprived, your brain gets more excited when it sees high-calorie food (we’ve all been there!). And of course, the more tired you are, the more likely you are to give in to temptation (we’ve all been there too!). But if you sleep well, suddenly those unhealthy snacks aren’t as appealing.

And it’s not just weight. If you don’t sleep properly your general appearance can take a hit as well. During deep sleep we release optimal amounts of human growth hormone which affects, amongst other things, the firmness of our skin and the tone of the muscles underneath it. When we’re tired, we tend to run on cortisol (the human body stress hormone). High levels of cortisol have been shown to break down the collagen proteins that ‘glue’ your skin cells together. This leads to fine lines, poor tone and wrinkles. So getting one’s “beauty sleep” isn’t just something your mum used to say, she was in fact right.

Actually, sleep is a lot more important to health than people realise. When we think about a lack of sleep, we tend to think about the short term effects of being tired and irritable the next day or a lack of concentration – all pretty inconvenient, but they’re things we can cope with in small amounts.

But sleep is also essential for our long term physical and mental health. Research by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) shows that poor sleep can increase our risk of developing a range of mental and physical illnesses, including depression and diabetes.

Want to know how well you sleep? Why not follow this link for our simple sleep test!

If you struggle to get good, quality sleep and feel it is having a negative impact on your life then here at the Insomnia Clinic we offer both face to face and online sessions to teach you this step by step and evidence based programme of treatment.

About Me

Sleep Specialist and consultant for the NHS and founder of the UK’s only specialist sleep service using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia. The techniques we teach are recommended by the NHS as they are proven to help 85% of poor sleepers improve within just four weeks.

Face to face and online sessions available.