Beauty Sleep

How often do you bounce out of bed in the morning feeling refreshed? If you greet the day with a cry “I need more sleep” you’re not alone. But a good night’s sleep can do more than just make you feel good, it can help you maintain a healthy weight too. As it turns out, a good night’s sleep is rare for many people. According to Dr Carmel Harrington, an Australian Sleep Medicine research scientist and author ofThe Sleep Diet(Macmillan), we are sleeping far less than ever before – up to two hours less a night than our grandparents did. And at least 20 per cent of people have trouble falling asleep or maintaining sleep most nights. Without enough regular sleep, we become chronically sleep deprived, and this brings with it a host of problems. As well as feeling grumpy (or “experiencing negative mood,” as Dr Harrington puts it), we are more likely to succumb to colds and flu, have difficulty concentrating, and battle to retain information. But lack of sleep also has another surprising impact; on our weight. When hormonal cycles are disturbed through lack of sleep, we feel hungrier. Studies show we consume 350-500 more calories a day after a poor night’s sleep. And it isn’t salad we want. We crave carbohydrate-rich foods like breads, cake, pasta and hot chips. To make matters worse, sleep deprivation slows down our metabolic rate; we don’t burn fat as easily, and our motivation and willpower takes a nosedive. The result? Weight gain and trouble sticking to a healthy eating plan. Most adults (97 per cent) need 7-9 hours sleep to function well the next day. And, although many believe older people sleep less, Dr Harrington says 7-8 hours is still a healthy average for us into old age. To determine if you are sleep deprived, Dr Harrington recommends keeping a sleep diary, and recording when you sleep and wake up over the course of a week. You can then start to implement changes into your lifestyle to enable better sleep.


Dr Harrington says one of the primary cycles affecting sleep is melatonin secretion, which is activated when the light starts to fade and makes us feel sleepy. This is one of the reasons a dark room is recommended for sleeping – artificial light has played havoc with our natural rhythms because our body can’t tell the difference between artificial and natural light.


One of Dr Harrington’s recommendations is to adopt a going-to-bed routine that involves dimming the lights an hour before you go to bed, turning off any computers, having a hot shower, and doing some meditation or yoga to relax. Writing down any worrisome problems is also an important step, and means you are less likely to mull over these issues when you really should be sleeping.


It goes without saying that television, computers and work material should stay out of the bedroom, so we learn to connect being in bed with sleep. However, sex is a good thing for sleep, Dr Harrington says.

Researched By : Kátia C. Rowlands – Pilates Instructor & Personal Trainer – 082 513 4256 •