Sleep & Your Body: The Importance of a Good Nights Rest

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Diet and sleep: a healthy helping of the right stuff

You workout regularly, eat nutritionally dense foods, portion out your meals and have even dialed in your supplement intake, yet, without the proper amount of sleep your body has a difficult time losing weight, regulating mood, memory and even recovery.

The amount of recommended sleep for the average adult is 8-10 hours a night. Most individuals are unable to obtain this many hours of sleep a night and typically get around 5-6 hours. The main culprit for lack of rest is either stress, work, TV, computers, screen time (phone, iPad, etc), late consumption of caffeine, and lack of exposure to natural light. All of these factors interrupt our body’s natural clock (our circadian rhythm) which causes us to feel awake at odd hours of the night and exhausted in the middle of the day.

Sleep & Body Composition:

But, what does poor sleep quality do to your body composition, eating habits, and performance goals? Studies suggest that people who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night gain almost twice as much weight over a 6-year period as people who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. When you don’t sleep, Ghrelin hormone levels (appetite stimulating) go up & Leptin hormone levels (appetite suppressing) go down. You won’t feel satisfied after your meals & you’ll want to keep on eating. Additionally, self-control drops, sensitivity to food reward increases, and our desire for energy-dense foods to increase energy levels goes way up. Lack of sleep can only lead us farther away from our weight loss goals.

Sleep & Performance:

If you are an athlete with a focus on performance, sleep is even more important for you. Sleep recharges your central nervous system (CNS) and replenishes your energy stores. Your muscle contractions, recovery time, and response to pain are all tied into your CNS. The better you sleep tonight, the better you’re going to perform in your workout tomorrow. If you’re sleep deprived, you’ll be slower, weaker, and less coordinated. Your Testosterone and Growth Hormone levels will drop, slowing down the amount of muscle you gain over time. Basically, the less you sleep, the less likely you are to recover which not only increases your chance of injury but also decreases our chance to maximize our gains in the gym!

So why should we care about sleep if we aren’t hyper focused on nutrition and performance?

Well, sleep deprivation also has nasty side effects:
Fatigue & lack of motivation.
Moodiness, irritability, depression.
Decreased sex drive.
Issues with memory, learning, decision-making, problem solving.
Increased risk of developing chronic illnesses.
Weakened immune system.
Impaired motor skills.
Impaired tolerance to carbohydrates.
Gut issues.
Increased inflammation.

So what can we do to make sure we’re getting enough sleep?
Limit caffeine & alcohol intake during the day, all which interfere with sleep.
Eat your last meal 2hrs before bed.
Dim the lights in your house/light candles when the sun sets.
Complete a “brain dump,” & write down thoughts that may keep you up.
No electronics (cell phone, internet, TV, etc) 30 mins - 1 hour before bed. (Consider using blue blockers).
Stretch, meditate, or read. Avoid anything that’s TOO emotionally provoking.

Set your AC between 60-68F.
Sleep in total darkness (black out curtains or an eye mask).