Friday is world sleep day and sleep is just as important for wellness as exercise and nutrition, said ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie.

Sleep is more especially important during today’s stressful COVID-19 pandemic world, he said.

“It lowers stress hormone stress cortisol which not only lowers stress and inflammation on the body but also stops the body storing belly fat, a common issue for middle-aged men with chronic stress levels.

“Sleep, together with exercise and balanced nutrition are the big three when it comes to improving health and wellness outcomes.

“Lack of sleep affects us all. Most teenagers are chronically sleep-deprived and many adults are getting one to two hours less sleep than they need. Sleep is available and free to everyone with few barriers to access it, to increase wellness. 

“This not only has adverse health outcomes in the long term but makes managing day to day stress much harder, as well as making the body very reluctant to give up fat which is essential for weight loss. Sleep is the most democratically available tools to increase your wellness. 

“Sleep is an essential tool for weight loss. Getting sleep stops fat burning when asleep which is critical for the daily life cycle. It helps maintain normal hunger levels through balancing hormones.”

Beddie says the covid pandemic has disrupted lives and the consequent stress has robbed people of a good night’s sleep.

According to sleep specialists, there has been a 20 to 25 percent jump in cases of sleep disorder caused by anxiety in the past 12 months.

When working from home, laptop screen time shot up. Instead of two to three hours before the screen, people began spending 12 to 15 hours in front of digital gadgets to study, work, watch movies, play games and chat.

The pandemic has dramatically altered the sleeping pattern of many people following isolation, loss of work, economic and health worries.

Disruption at work, school and home life has increased stress, anxiety, and depression. This in turn has played havoc with the quality of sleep.  Beddie says the good news is that regular exercise helps people sleep.

A small but worrying survey from March 2020 found a whopping 38 percent of people were feeling tired or lacked energy, 36 percent were having sleep disturbances and 25 percent were feeling down, depressed, or hopeless.