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Sleep: How important is it really?

Sleep is an essential aspect of human health, a consistent and quality sleep routine is vital for maintaining optimal function, performance and health. In this blog, I will delve into the ramifications of appropriate and poor sleep habits, and highlight the role that a personal trainer with sleep expertise may play in aiding individuals to achieve a pro-actively positive sleep routine; resulting in overall improvement in their life-experience.

First, let's focus on the benefits of a good sleep routine. Adequate sleep is vital for maintaining healthy metabolic function, regulating hormones such as insulin and ghrelin, which control hunger and satiety. A wealth of evidence has shown that individuals who get sufficient sleep are less likely to develop obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders. Additionally, a consistent sleep routine is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, as it helps to regulate blood pressure (and therefore reduce stroke risk) and reduce inflammation in the body and brain (consistently found in many chronic disorders). Moreover, sleep plays a critical role in emotion regulation, cognitive performance and verbal fluency.

However, a lack in either sleep quantity, regularity of sleep timing, or continuity, can have severe and far-reaching consequences.

Studies have shown that individuals who get insufficient sleep have a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as breast, prostate, and colon cancer. While the mechanisms behind this link are not fully understood, several theories have been proposed.

One theory is that sleep deprivation disrupts the body's circadian rhythm: the internal biological clock that regulates various physiological processes, including the release of hormones and cellular repair processes. Disrupting the circadian rhythm may lead to changes in the levels of hormones such as melatonin, which is known to have anti-cancer properties, and may contribute to the development of cancer.

Another theory is that sleep deprivation leads to chronic inflammation, which is a known risk factor for cancer. Studies have shown that individuals who get insufficient sleep have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their blood, which may contribute to the development of cancer. Moreover, sleep deprivation can also lead to oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body's ability to neutralize them. This can also contribute to inflammation and cancer development.

However it is not just cancer risk that poor sleep influences. Research demonstrates that insufficient levels of sleep are associated with a broad variety of negative physiological outcomes, including obesity, endocrine dysfunction, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and brain atrophy. Psychological disorders; including, anxiety, depression and increased risk to post traumatic stress disorder, and cognitive impairment.

Insufficient sleep disrupts the balance of hormones that control hunger and satiety, leading to an increase in appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods. Additionally, sleep deprivation can also lead to insulin resistance; a condition in which the body's cells do not respond properly to insulin, which can further increase the risk of diabetes. But also, inadequate sleep can lead to a decrease in physical activity, leading to an increase in body weight, which in turn, again, increases the risk of said metabolic disorders.