Karl Henry: Take this simple quiz to see if you need to get more sleep
Welcome to my new series, ‘How to Sleep Well’. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be delving into the world of sleep: why we need it, what it does for us and how to help improve your sleep so that your body can get the ultimate recovery.
That is exactly what sleep is — recovery. It is the one time of the day when the body shuts down, the muscles repair themselves, the stomach processes your food, and your brain declutters and processes your thoughts from the day.
During sleep your body releases growth hormones, which boost muscle mass and repair cells and tissues. We know that lack of sleep can lead to obesity because of an imbalance in the hormones that regulate appetite, so not only is your body recovering, you are reducing your chance of obesity. Yet despite the fact we all know that after a good night’s sleep we feel better, it is something people don’t prioritise. It generally comes at the very end of the ‘to do’ list. Over the next few weeks I want to change all that, so that you start putting your sleep first.
Regular readers of my column will know that I love to measure things and sleep is no different. Let’s start with a simple sleep quiz:
- Wake up tired after a night’s sleep?
- Dream or have nightmares a lot during your sleep?
- Keep your phone in your bedroom?
- Find it hard to actually get to sleep?
- Get less that eight hours’ sleep a night?
- Feel the need to nap during the day?
- Always struggle to get out of bed?
- Have a television in your bedroom?
- Wake up often during the night?
If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, then you are going to need to keep reading over the coming weeks, as you definitely aren’t getting enough quality sleep. Insufficient quality sleep will impact absolutely everything you do: from work, to training, to your mood, your confidence, your weight and your happiness. Lack of sleep can increase your risk of serious medical conditions such as heart attacks and diabetes as well as lowering your immune system and increasing your risk of colds and flu. Unsurprisingly, not getting enough sleep can lower your sex drive too, as well as your fertility. Who wants to have sex when you’re exhausted?
Each week I will look at different topics and how they improve your sleep, from food to exercise, and giving you a sleep schedule to follow each evening.
So how much sleep do you need? Is it really eight hours a night? This is a tough one as I know lots of people who can get by on less than that — some even work on four hours a night.
I myself need to be asleep by 10pm at the latest and then I am up at 4.45 or 5am for work. When I am training hard, I schedule in a power nap during the day too so ensure I add in more. It depends on your day, your training and your body. If you are waking up tired, then that’s a pretty good sign you aren’t getting enough sleep or good sleep. If you feel the need to always nap during the day or have big lie-ins at the weekend, those are signs that you need to work on it.
The good news is that you can improve your sleep easily, with some simple swaps and changes which I’ll outline over the coming weeks. Your homework for this week is to leave your phone outside of the bedroom during the night. We leave ours on the hall table. Give this a go and see how you get on for the next seven days.
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The Real Health podcast is in association with Laya Healthcare.