We’ve been told since we were young that it’s important to get a good night’s sleep. Now, as healthy adults, it’s more important than ever. Sleep plays a significant role in your healthy lifestyle, giving you energy for workouts, reducing cravings for unhealthy food, and helping your muscles recover properly—and lack of sleep can de-rail even the best efforts.
If you’re trying to lose weight, build muscle tone, or make your regular gym routine a habit—getting enough sleep is necessary. Find out how your lack of sleep is impacting your fitness goals.
Lack of Sleep and Your Health
While you sleep, your body works, making it a critical part of your healthy life: “Throughout the night, your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure rise and fall, a process that may be important for cardiovascular health. Your body releases hormones during sleep that help repair cells and control the body’s use of energy. These hormone changes can affect your body weight,” according to The Benefit of Slumber, by NIH.
Consider the many ways lack of sleep directly impacts you and your health efforts.
1. Reduced Energy
Health impact: “I just don’t have it in me to get to the gym today.”
Less sleep means less energy. When you’re trying to lose weight or shape up, this translates to less energy for working out, taking a walk, or making a healthy meal for dinner. When you’re tired, it’s easiest to take the path of least resistance—which is taken out and your couch.
2. Slower Metabolism
Health impact: “That chocolate bar looks good—I need an energy boost so I’ll have two.”
Lack of sleep has been found to do two important things: decrease leptin (appetite suppressant) and boost ghrelin (promotes the feeling of hunger). This means, with less sleep, you have less control over normal hunger cues, causing you to eat when you’re not hungry. Not to mention, because you’re tired, you’ll likely reach for something carb or sugar-based for an instant boost.
3. Longer Recovery Time
Health impact: “I feel so weak this week, I hit a new PR last month—what’s going on?”
Researchers know that lack of sleep causes an uptick in cortisol and a decrease in testosterone and insulin-like Growth Factor 1. In health terms, this means: shorter sleep periods fail to provide your body with ample time to regenerate cells and repair from the muscular stress of a workout.
4. Decreased Immune Strength
Health impact: “I just can’t shake this cold, so I haven’t worked out in a week.”
Your immune system relies on sleep to function optimally. Lack of sleep affects the way this important bodily system works, making it harder for you to fight off common colds and infections.
How to Sleep Better
Despite wanting to avoid the negative effects, many of us struggle to get the necessary amount of sleep, but a few simple tweaks to your nightly routine may be just what you need to start catching those z’s.
Set a Sleep Schedule
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help you get the right amount of sleep for your body. This will eventually become a habit once your body acclimates itself to the adjustment. With practice, you’ll be able to sleep well, night after night.
Create a Sleep Routine
Create your own customized sleep routine in conjunction with your sleep schedule. This routine will automatically prepare your body for sleep when repeated each night. A few things to add to your sleep routine are:
- Brushing teeth/washing face/hot shower
- Stretching or yoga
- Meditating (Try this Yoga Nidra, a deep sleep guided meditation, by Caitlin from Healer’s Within Yoga Therapy)
- Drinking tea—Chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm and St. John’s Wart are all good calming teas
Say No to Cell Phones and Computers in Bed
Bright lights stimulate the brain. Help your brain shut down in a peaceful, calming atmosphere by eliminating anything that emanates light from being used in your bed. If you like to scroll through Instagram or Facebook before falling asleep, set a time limit so you can still enjoy that pre-sleep ritual.
Buy a Comfortable Mattress
Invest in a mattress that best fits your needs. It doesn’t help to toss and turn at night, much less wake up with a sore back or stiff neck—which is just as bad as lack of sleep.