Trainer Rachael Attard reveals what happens to your body when you don’t get enough sleep

A personal trainer has revealed what happens to your body without enough sleep – and how to create a simple night-time routine that will benefit your health.

In a recent post on her website, Sydney fitness coach Rachael Attard warned of the many risks associated with lack of sleep, including weight gain, a weakened immune system and an increased risk of chronic diseases including cancer and diabetes.

Over time, she said not getting enough sleep can exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as making you irritable and unable to concentrate.

Experts advise adults to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, and Rachael said there are five things you can do before hitting the hay to ensure you’re getting the most out of your rest.

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Australian personal trainer Rachael Attard (pictured) has warned that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, a weakened immune system and an increased risk of chronic diseases

Australian personal trainer Rachael Attard (pictured) has warned that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, a weakened immune system and an increased risk of chronic diseases

Sleep deprivation has been linked to a plethora of physical and mental health issues

Sleep deprivation has been linked to a plethora of physical and mental health issues

These include going to bed at the same time each day, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine in the late afternoon and evening and avoiding electronics like phones and laptops one hour before bed.

Rachael also recommends unwinding with yoga, meditation, reading or listening to calming music shortly before turning in.

She said it’s important to stay active throughout the day to ensure you’re tired when it comes to bedtime.

This should amount to about 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, which could be accumulated by swimming, jogging, brisk walking or cycling.

Five steps to a healthy sleep schedule

1. Go to bed at the same time each day

2. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine in the afternoons and evenings

3. Avoid electronics one hour before bed 

4. Unwind with yoga, stretching, meditation, reading or listening to calming music

5. Stay active throughout the day and get about 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week

Source: Rachael Attard

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Rachael (pictured) said not getting enough sleep can exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as making you irritable and unable to concentrate

Rachael (pictured) said not getting enough sleep can exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as making you irritable and unable to concentrate

The effects of too little sleep

1. Weakened immune system and increased risk of infection

While you sleep, Rachael said your immune system is busy producing antibodies to help your body fight infection from bacteria and viruses.

Consistently losing sleep means your immune system is starved of the time it needs to produce these essential substances, making you more susceptible to being sick. 

Rachael said long-term sleep deprivation means your body will also be slower to fight infection if you do fall ill.

Some studies suggest that patients with sleep disorders such as insomnia have an increased risk of chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Rachael claimed prolonged lack of sleep lowers the body’s protection against bowel and breast cancer in particular.

Rachael (pictured) said long-term sleep deprivation means your body will be slower to fight infection if you do fall ill

Rachael (pictured) said long-term sleep deprivation means your body will be slower to fight infection if you do fall ill

2. Weight gain 

Rachael said not getting enough sleep has been linked to increased hunger and intense cravings for sugary and fatty foods. 

This is because the hormones that regulate hunger are balanced while you sleep, she explained.

Lack of sleep throws this balance off kilter, Rachael said, making it difficult for the body to determine whether it’s hungry or when it’s full.

Studies show that adults who sleep five hours or less per night are more likely to gain weight than those who sleep seven to eight hours a night.

3. Mental health, memory and concentration

Rachael said prolonged lack of sleep has long been associated with a plethora of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

It has been proven to worsen mood swings and irritability, while reducing your ability to concentrate and memorise simple tasks.

Sleep-deprivation also hinders rational thinking, impacting how you make decisions, solve problems and make sense of your own emotions.

Rachael (pictured) said not getting enough sleep has been linked to increased hunger and intense cravings for sugary and fatty foods

Rachael (pictured) said not getting enough sleep has been linked to increased hunger and intense cravings for sugary and fatty foods

Earlier this year, Rachael revealed what happens to your body when you give up sugar, including the raft of benefits you can expect to see within just one week.

She said there are many reasons to cut back or eliminate sugar from your diet, from reduced risk of diabetes to less likelihood of getting liver or heart disease later in life.

But it isn’t just health benefits you can expect to enjoy.

Rachael said clearer skin, less belly fat and improved mood are also associated with cutting out the sweet stuff.

‘When you stop eating sugar, you will notice some short-term and long-term side effects in your body,’ she wrote on her website.

‘Most of the side effects are positive, but you will have some negative side effects [withdrawal symptoms] at first too.’

Earlier this year, Rachael (pictured) revealed what happens to your body when you give up sugar

Earlier this year, Rachael (pictured) revealed what happens to your body when you give up sugar

What are the positive effects?

1. Clearer skin

Tips for cutting back on sugar 

* Start slowly and cut sugar from one meal first, before gradually getting bigger.

* Improve your overall diet and eat as much protein, good fats and fibre as possible as this will reduce sugar cravings.

* Drink enough water and make sure you’re adequately hydrated across the day so you don’t mix hunger with thirst.

* Get plenty of sleep – between seven and nine hours – to avoid feeling grouchy and needing to snack.

* Manage your stress levels as much as possible.

* Exercise regularly, whether that’s high intensity or something more steady like walking.

Source: Rachael Attard 

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The first change the trainer said you can expect to see is an almost instant improvement in your complexion.

‘Lots of sugar can cause your insulin to spike, which causes inflammation throughout your body and can cause your skin to break out,’ Rachael said.

By limiting your sugar intake, so too will you reduce inflammation.

The PT also said that less sugar can strengthen elastin and collagen in your complexion, which can help to reduce fine lines, wrinkles and smooth out sagging skin. 

You should notice your skin clears from within seven days of significantly reducing or eliminating sugar.

2. Steady supply of energy

When we eat sugar, it causes a quick spike in energy that causes us to feel much more productive, before it later leads to a massive drop in energy that is often described as a ‘sugar low’.

‘Reducing your sugar intake will help you get rid of these ups and downs,’ Rachael said. 

This should lead to your energy levels being much more steady overall, especially if you replace your sugary snacks and drinks with good fats and protein.

3. Reduced abdominal fat 

One of the best side effects of less sugar is reduced fat, particularly in your abdominal region.

Rachael highlighted one study, which showed that those who quit sugar for 30 days noticed 5-20 pounds of weight loss.

Rachael (pictured) highlighted one study which showed that those who quit sugar for 30 days noticed five to 20 pounds of weight loss

Rachael (pictured) highlighted one study which showed that those who quit sugar for 30 days noticed five to 20 pounds of weight loss

4. Reduced risk of diabetes

Keeping to a healthy weight helps to drastically reduce your chance of getting diabetes, but that isn’t the only way limiting sugar helps.

‘When you eat a lot of sugar or simple carbohydrates, your pancreas produces more and more insulin,’ Rachael said.

‘This can overwork insulin-producing cells, making them break down, which eventually leads to diabetes.’ 

5. Reduced risk of heart disease

‘Too much sugar is linked to high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (or bad cholesterol) levels, both of which hurt your head over time,’ Rachael said.

She added that people who get between 17 and 21 percent of their calories from sugar are more likely to ‘die of heart disease’.

What are the negative side effects?

1. Psychological withdrawal symptoms

Giving up sugar can first of all give you withdrawal symptoms that feel a lot like anxiety.

‘You might notice that you are more nervous, restless and on edge than normal,’ Rachael said.

You could also have less patience and more trouble concentrating.

But the good news is that this will subside after around seven days, and you will actually end up with more energy and improved mental clarity. 

2. Change in mood

While giving up sugar will eventually mean you have a better overall mood, that doesn’t mean you won’t feel grumpy at first.

‘Quitting sugar means your body doesn’t have its usual source of dopamine and serotonin, which can make you irritable and moody,’ Rachael said.

Again, this should adjust after a week.

Cravings are a common side effect for everyone who gives up sugar, but they only last 2-3 weeks, Rachael (pictured) said

Cravings are a common side effect for everyone who gives up sugar, but they only last 2-3 weeks, Rachael (pictured) said

3. Cravings

Cravings are a common side effect for everyone who gives up sugar, but they only last 2-3 weeks.

If you are craving something, instead eat foods that are high in protein, fat or fibre – these will help to keep them at bay.

4. Physical withdrawal symptoms 

Finally, Rachael said you are likely to notice some physical withdrawal symptoms.

Like giving up smoking, cutting back on sugar can produce similar physical withdrawal symptoms too including headaches, nausea, weakness, bloating, muscle aches and stomach cramps.

Rachael said if you try to ride them out, they will eventually abate.

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