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Olwen Anderson's Blog

The brutal sleep report from your mirror

Saturday, March 10, 2018
The mirror report is brutal: “You’re looking less-than-perky today. Older, actually.” Well, okay, maybe you do look bleary-eyed, your wrinkles a little deeper. Who would have thought that a disrupted sleep could have this effect?
If you’ve ever experienced insomnia, or enforced sleep deprivation, you know how truly awful it feels when you run short on good quality sleep. Shift workers and new parents, you know what I mean.

Parents eventually get respite when their children eventually sleep through the night. Long term shift work is well known for its ability to erode your health. But you don’t have to be a parent or a shift worker to experience sleep problems. 

What you miss without good sleep is growth hormone. Although well known as the hormone that is sometimes (mis)used by athletes who cheat, growth hormone is naturally produced during sleep by the pituitary gland in your brain.

Amongst its other jobs, growth hormone helps regulate where the energy from food is utilised. In a young person growth hormone encourages cells to take up amino acids, produce protein, and grow muscles.  As you age though, and less growth hormone is produced, the balance shifts. Energy from food will tend to converge in fat deposits, especially on your tummy. Maintenance and growth of muscle is now something your body will undertake only if it’s pushed to. This makes exercise even more important as you age, because now you could literally melt into the couch. 

There seems to be some disagreement in the scientific literature about whether growth hormone is secreted more in the really deep phases of the sleep cycle, or whether it’s happening more in the first hour or so.

This is why sleep is such a central pillar of good health, and good sleep practice is known as sleep hygiene. Helpful habits: like avoiding electronic screens after dark, having a wind down routine, going to bed at the same time every day can help your body get into a better sleep routine. Some people find that exercising, meditation or stretching in the afternoon helps them sleep better. 

Sleep isn’t the only factor: chronic stress inhibits production of growth hormone, and exercise gives it a boost. It’s all linked though: Exercise helps reduce stress, and less stress helps you achieve a deeper, more restful sleep.
You can always get a report on your sleep quality and your growth hormone production from that unforgiving assessor, the mirror. 

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy "Why Can't I Sleep"



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