Focus on health: Why sleep is a necessity, not a luxury

All too often we skimp on sleep, thinking that we can “catch up” later, but the result is a negative impact on your health, productivity and body composition

By Chris Richards


Sleep is in scarce supply with the work culture in a city like Singapore.


We all too often skimp on it thinking that we can “catch up” either by weekend lie-ins or ride the fatigue wave out with caffeine and sugar. The harsh truth however is that it’s a zero sum game.  You need what you need when you need it and cannot make it up later without a negative impact on your health, productivity, and body composition.


How do you define how much sleep you need? You should wake up feeling refreshed without the need for an alarm clock. That’s probably something that very few of you ever achieve. It doesn’t have to be eight hours though – for some it will be more and others can function optimally on much less. Whatever your own sleep sweet spot is, you must never forget that it is one of the key non-negotiables to optimal living.


In very simple terms not getting enough sleep plays havoc with:


  1. Testosterone production – go a few nights on 60% measures of sleep and see where your libido is at. Possibly a teenager or young man in his 20s won’t feel this, but wait until the 30s and 40s hit.
  2. Insulin / Cortisol “see-saw syndrome” – your tired mind (never forget how significant the brain is in these things) and body needs boosts in cortisol to get it going and is also more insulin resistant, meaning it is much more likely to store glucose in the fat cells. What sort of foods do you reach for when you are sleep deprived? The worst kinds – forget meat and vegetables and think croissants and candy. You do this for a hormonal reason and it will send you into a negative spiral of worse food, lower “real” energy, mental fog and fat accumulation.
  3. Growth Hormone (HGH) production – we release a lot of our HGH during certain cycles of sleep. Miss these cycles out and you can’t play “catch up”.


How to Improve Sleep Quality


  1. Keep regular hours – go to bed at the same time every night and dispel this notion that you can play “catch up” at weekends.
  2. Sleep in a cool temperature - by decreasing body temperature and regulating room temperature, you can create an environment that will sustain REM sleep.
  3. Make your bedroom a Batcave!  REM sleep can be easily be affected by noise pollution and light interference so make your bedroom as dark and as quiet as possible. Go as far as switching off electrical devices that have standby lights on, and if you travel a lot use hotel towels to block out the light that often comes through from hotel corridors. Light interference can easily create a sensory marker in the brain that disturbs REM sleep, therefore it is vital to establish the best sleep environment. Even the slightest light contact with the skin will reduce the quality of REM sleep, so the darker the bedroom the more likely one is able to gain quality REM sleep.
  4. Use Magnesium - this mineral is vital in aiding cortisol management and it therefore assists deep wave sleep by resetting insulin sensitivity. Magnesium is also a catalyst in re-establishing adrenal health through the cortisol/insulin connection.
  5. Californian poppy extract is a great herbal adaptogen that relaxes brain waves into deep wave sleep. It also acts as a liver detoxifier and has a secondary pathway in slowly aiding the removal of toxins that affect the sleep cycle.
  6. Our diets also have a significant impact upon the sleep cycle. Foods that are high in carbohydrates may increase serotonin production (the neurotransmitter responsible for a calm, happy, and relaxed state of mind), but the downside is that once blood sugar levels decline the body will go into a natural hunger mode and it is possible that you may wake up as natural reaction to low blood sugar. Foods that are high in essential fats will aid in establishing a constant blood glucose level, which is beneficial as the body will be able to go into a fasting state while slow-release energy is being made available for metabolic function. Therefore, one option to try is to stay away from carbohydrate-rich meals at least two hours before bed and try to rather include a meal rich in essential fatty acids.
  7. If you are waking up after 2-4 hours’ sleep you may benefit from a protocol that will assists your liver’s ability to detoxify.
    i) Increase fibre intake and consider a morning and evening addition of a high quality fibre supplement.
    ii) Glucuronic acid is vital in unbinding phase two detoxified substances for removal from the GI tract. Take two calcium d-glucarate capsules three times daily for 16 days.
    iii) Use an estrogen control protocol for 16 days.
    iv) As an ongoing liver support formula mix 1-3 tablespoons of a good quality Greens powder with 1.5ltr water bottle and consume daily: maintaining pH levels will aid not only GI detoxification but also positively influence proper cortisol management.





Chris Richards is a motivated body composition expert and manager with a results driven record of changing individuals’ quality of life and physique. He has worked with a wide range of personal training clients including CEOs and celebrities and his personable results driven approach ensure clients feel value in the service they invest in. Through his experience of previously running his own business and as Operations Manager at Ultimate Performance's Mayfair gym, Chris is now General Manager at Ultimate Performance Singapore. He is able to both manage and mentor the trainers working in the gym alongside the behind the scenes operations that are required for an effective service. For more information visit