Sleep- The missing link to fat loss


Sleep is our body’s main opportunity for recovery. It’s when the body truly switches off and repair work can begin at large. It takes up 1/3rd of our lives. It’s absolutely vital to our survival. Sleep deprivation can kill; it’s a method of torture used by the KGB and CIA (my worst nightmare if I’m honest, bring on the waterboarding but don’t stop me getting my 40 winks.) Sleep is an essential part of being human and also a pretty irritating one as well. Imagine how productive we would be if we didn’t have to sleep every 16 hours? However it’s not something that can be hacked or cheated, sleep is simple yet in a world full of distractions it is becoming more and more complicated and harder to find.

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We experience about 100 times more stress than our grandparents did and this is visible in the current state of our health and wellbeing. We’re bombarded with social media updates, bills to pay, poor diets, lack of exercise and social pressure to own the latest gadget, wear the newest dress or look like our favourite celebrity. It’s none stop and no wonder our generation of children will live a shorter life than their parents. Now we have tablets, phones and televisions in our bedrooms our brains never truly get an opportunity to shut off. To rest, relax and refresh. Our sleep is being affected and this is enlarging our waistlines as well.

Now sleep is a very personal thing. Some people need more than others. I know for certain I am one of those people. Maggie Thatcher used to survive on 4 hours sleep a night, without yawning her way through cabinet meetings the next day. For me I would be like a zombie on such little sleep, my concentration would be equal to that of a sugar filled toddler with ADHD and my temper would be shorter than Danny Devito. It’s been revealed that teenagers need more sleep than most as their bodies are growing, overflowing with hormones and such like. As you get older you get less and less sleep, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need less and less. Something I’m starting to realise as I get older.


Now I’m all for a drink now and then, I’m certainly no saint (I keep getting facebook updates of pictures from university where I look 1 drink shy of a coma). I enjoy alcohol for its taste and the days of drinking a 15 pack of fosters are well and truly over (Don’t quote me on this). But now I’m selective with when I drink rather than just drinking for the hell of it. “I only drink on days ending in a Y” is not really a good enough reason in my personal opinion. Alcohol plays havoc with our sleep. Yes it might help you drift off faster but it inhibits your brains ability to get below the 4th stage of sleep. Hence why you wake up the following day after a particularly heavy night not only feeling like a homeless person slept in your mouth but feeling knackered as well. Your body hasn’t truly rested, and the hangover is made worse by your bodies inability to shut off. All in moderation, if you know you don’t feel great after drinking during the week (you’re lethargic, groggy and a bit grumpy) then just stick to drinking at the weekends perhaps? This is not an invitation to make up for the lack of drinking during the week on a Friday and Saturday night. All in moderation. Anyone with fitness goals needs to reduce alcohol to a minimum, if not eradicate it. It’s not forever don’t forget.


In a world full of electronics and screens good quality sleep is becoming harder and harder to find. Blue light emitted from our phones, tablets or computers really hinders the brains ability to shut down and switch off and for those who check their social media before bedtime or watch just one more episode on Netflix this can be very detrimental to a good night’s sleep. Whilst you may feel tired the brain is completely wired and awake due to the blue light exposure. Might I suggest buying an alarm clock instead of using your phone to wake you up? I’m sure you might miss 1 new follower on Instagram but you can catch up with that on your morning commute or on a break the following day. Beware that social media is addictive, a new post or update stimulates the reward sensors in our brain, a bit like eating a chocolate bar. Take a break when you can especially within 60 minutes of going to bed.


Do you have a deadline tomorrow? Unpaid bills? Are the in-laws coming over this weekend? Well you my friend might be suffering from stress! That’s right, Social anxiety is one of the biggest causes of insomnia today (along with other things) and can leave you up all night trying to count sheep, unfortunately to no avail. Now everyone is different and some stresses can’t be avoided. But getting organised, planning ahead, hell even writing a to-do list can help put your mind at ease and make it easier for you to drift off.

The stress that a lack of sleep puts on the body plays havoc with our hormones. Insomnia has been linked to an increase in type 2 diabetes. The hunger hormone Ghrelin is exponentially increased with a lack of sleep. The lower the quality or quantity of sleep you have the hungrier you will feel. Leading to snacking on low quality, sugary high fat foods and eating more throughout the day. If you want to lose weight, sleep longer. It’s that simple.

Top 5 tips to get the best Night’s sleep

Now here are a few ways to make sure you can get the most out of your sleep:

  1. Turn off all electronics 60 minutes before bed
    1. Don’t worry about twitter, it will still be there in the morning. So will your 15 followers (too harsh?)
  2. Take a Magnesium Supplement before bed
    1. At NG Health and Fitness we have a supplement called Magnesium Relax, that we suggest to all of our clients regardless of their goals. Better sleep quality can help you train harder, recover better, reduce appetite, think clearer and all round be a more awesome person.
  3. Take a hot shower or bath right before bed
    1. When we sleep our internal body temperature drops. This is why you might wake up in the middle of the night if the covers have fallen off and felt cold. To help facilitate this drop in temperature a hot shower or bath can draw our blood towards our skin meaning we rapidly cool when we get out. This can massively help with your break from social media and television because you can’t take your phone in the shower with you.
  4. Carbohydrates in your final meal of the day
    1. Like I mentioned in my third newsletter on carbohydrates, we can utilise the bodies reaction to the ingestion of carbs to our advantage. When we ingest Carbs our body secretes insulin, our body will always produce the right amount to match whatever we eat. If we over eat carbs (eg. A giant pasta dish or a pizza) our body over produces insulin which makes us feel sleepy. If you’ve ever felt like you’re about to slip into a comma after a spaghetti Carbonara, you know what I mean. This is why I suggest that the majority of your carb allowance is eating the last meal before bed to help promote a deep sleep.
  5. Get some Sunshine first thing in the morning when you wake
    1. A lot of people don’t realise that in order to get better sleep you need to focus on what you’re doing when you wake up. Our circadian rhythm (24-hour body clock) is governed by light. The more we have during the day, the stronger feeling of sleepiness we get in the evening. So have a consistent wake up time and if needed (in the UK) use a SAD lamp when you wake to get your 10-15 mins of light exposure. This plays a big part in making you feel more awake during the day also.

There you go. I hope you haven’t drifted off reading this today and you can start to use some of these techniques to make the most of your sleep. If you are struggling to sleep well then I suggest staying away from chemical sleeping pills as your body can begin to become reliant on these. They also don’t promote deep sleep and can leave you feeling worse the following day. If you eat well, exercise and de-stress your life then sleep should come a lot easier to you.

Nathan Graham
NG Health and Fitness Director

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