the import­ance of sleep

Sleep is one of the most import­ant factors in main­tain­ing our health. It’s just as import­ant as exer­cise and stick­ing to a healthy diet. Nev­er have we been more aware of how import­ant sleep is, yet people are get­ting far less than they did in the past. This is primar­ily down to an increase in stim­u­la­tion from things such as phones, laptops and tab­lets.

To under­stand sleep, it’s import­ant to under­stand how it works. There are two basic types — rap­id eye move­ment (REM), and non REM. Gen­er­ally these two occur in 3–5 cycles each night.

Non-REM includes what is com­monly known as deep sleep or slow wave sleep. Dream­ing typ­ic­ally occurs dur­ing REM sleep.



Every one of us has an intern­al “body clock”. This con­trols when the body is ready for sleep and when it’s ready to awake. This clock typ­ic­ally fol­lows a repeat­ing 24-hour cycle. This is called the cir­ca­di­an rhythm. The rhythm affects every cell, tis­sue, and organ in your body and how they work with one and oth­er.

There are all sorts of neg­at­ive impacts when someone doesn’t get enough sleep. Obvi­ous things such as feel­ing tired, moody or find­ing it dif­fi­cult to con­cen­trate are just some of the basic symp­toms, but the effects are far reach­ing.

For example stud­ies have shown that those that are more sleep deprived can have a big­ger appet­ite than those that get their 7–8 hours. This is because sleep depriva­tion can dis­rupt daily hor­mone func­tions and cause a rise in Ghrelin, the hor­mone that stim­u­lates appet­ite and equally, whilst redu­cing levels of Lept­in, the hor­mone that decreases appet­ite.

The major­ity of ultra run­ners will be train­ing harder than the aver­age indi­vidu­al, and put­ting more stress on their muscles as a res­ult. This makes it even more import­ant to pri­or­it­ize good sleep as it is dur­ing sleep that muscles are recov­er­ing the best, growth hor­mone levels dur­ing peak sleep allow­ing tis­sue growth and repair.

Some­thing which is key to remem­ber but dif­fi­cult to put into prac­tice is that if you have to choose between train­ing and sleep, sleep should always come first, oth­er­wise not only will your train­ing be neg­at­ively affected, but so will your recov­ery.

Here are some top tips for get­ting a good nights sleep;

• Exer­cise, but not too close to your bed time;

• Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every­day. Yup, week­end or week­day, make it con­stant. Your body does not care if it’s a Sat­urday or a Tues­day. Remem­ber, Homo Sapi­ens are used to sleep­ing when the sun goes down and arising when it comes up;

• Make your bed­room dark and stop using any devices 1 hour before bed. The white light emit­ted will trig­ger hor­mones in your brain to wake up;

• Make your room quiet;

• Aim to have your final large meal at least 2 hrs before your bed time;

• Don’t have any caf­feine with­in 7 hours of your bed­time;

• Try read­ing with a dim light for 20/30 minutes before switch­ing off the light;

If you do all these things, you should sleep like a baby.

To read fur­ther into the import­ance of sleep we recom­mend the book ‘Why We Sleep’ by Mat­thew Walk­er.

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