Is your weight creeping up as your sleep levels are creeping down? Instead of adding another hour to your workout, do yourself a favour and switch off Mad Men a little earlier tonight and get an extra hour of sleep instead!

You may be surprised to learn that one of the first questions I ask my clients is how many hours of sleep are they are getting each night. Not how many pizza’s you ate last week, or not how many times a week can you commit to training.

No, we talk about sleep. The really good quality shut-eye time that is so elusive today it’s almost an urban myth.

Why you may ask is zzz time so important?

Simply put, you can’t run on empty. Just as food fuels you for energy, sleep fuels you for recovery and regeneration, and if you aren’t getting good quality, uninterrupted sleep – this just isn’t happening!

Let’s have a quick look at how a lack of sleep effects your body mentally (and has you reaching for a strong latte) and also physically.

When you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to overeat and reach for a second (and perhaps third..) donut. Why? Lack of sleep can activate the hormone Ghrelin which stimulates hunger and makes you want food. It also overrides the hormone Leptin which tells you to stop eating.

Scientists have uncovered an inverse relationship between the hours of sleep and blood plasma concentrations of ghrelin; as the hours of sleep increase, ghrelin concentrations were considerably lower, thereby potentially reducing appetite and avoiding potential obesity.

Sleepiness can also damage your judgment, work performance, mood, and safety. We all know how ‘slow’ we feel when we get limited sleep but did you know that is also affects your memory? Yep, our memories are strengthened during sleep.

Moral of the story.. make sure you are getting around 7-8 hours of beauty sleep every night to keep the hunger at bay and so your memories are here to stay!

You can put in the hard yards training and eating right, but if you are not putting in the necessary recovery time which occurs while you are asleep – ALL your hard work will be for nothing. Sleep isn’t a luxury but a necessity!!

* Each month I will publish my ‘InShape News Columnist’ piece– which can also be found here