Benefits of Sleep for Weight Loss and Other Fitness Goals

Benefits of Sleep for Weight Loss and Other Fitness Goals

What are the benefits of sleep for fat loss and muscle gain?

Read on to find out the top five reasons to get your zzz’s when you’re working towards fitness goals:

Sufficient sleep helps your body to balance hunger hormones. Ghrelin signals your body to eat more and – unsurprisingly – your body makes more of this hormone when you’re sleep-deprived. Leptin tells your body it’s had enough food and – you guessed it – your body makes less leptin when you’re tired. Insufficient sleep, in other words, causes you to battle stronger food cravings, and who needs that?

You get stressed when you under-sleep, which causes you to store fat. Your body produces a hormone called cortisol when you experience the “stress” of uneven or insufficient sleep, and cortisol makes you more likely to store calories as fat. No matter how well you are eating, in other words, a messed-up sleep schedule can cause your body to treat a healthy diet like an unhealthy one.

Obviously, you have more energy when you are well rested. If you are exhausted, which do you think you will be more likely to do – hit the gym for a quick 20-minute run and then cook a healthy dinner, or head straight home after work and order takeout? This seems like a no-brainer, but sufficient sleep (combined with a healthy diet) will boost your energy throughout the day so that you don’t experience a snack afternoon slump.

Sufficient sleep promotes mental and emotional health, which trickles down to our food and exercise habits. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every night and every morning is more than about waking up refreshed – having a consistent sleeping schedule also improves mental/emotional well-being and outlook. A positive attitude and healthy decision-making leads to better choices all day long, including exercise and healthy eating!

Sleeping is when your body recharges, heals, and recovers. If you’re working out and not getting enough sleep, you’re not going to see the gains you want. The micro-tears in your muscles will not have the resources to heal, and you will be more prone to plateau or, even worse, injury.

What are the worst enemies of a good sleeping schedule?

What habits do you need to change?

Alcohol – Many tout a glass of wine or beer to be an effective sleep aid in their evening routine. However, this is largely imaginary. The reality is that drinking alcohol of any kind before bedtime allows you to fall asleep faster but significantly decreases the quality and restfulness of your sleep.

Caffeine –If you are drinking any kind of caffeinated power drink, STOP. If you simply drink coffee or caffeinated tea, limit yourself to a maximum of 2-3 cups a day, and stop drinking caffeine by 4:00 P.M.

Screens – LED screens activate the part of your brain that promotes wakefulness and alertness. As bedtime approaches, decrease your use of phone, tablet, and computer screens. Try not to use them at all in the hour before bedtime. This may be very difficult if you live alone and technology is your connection to community at night, but the key is to create relaxing routines that are screen-free, such as yoga, hot tea, book-reading, a hot bath, etc. It may sound overly idyllic, but it is very effective.

Weekend sleep binges – There is no “sleep bank” to which you can make deposits. If you over-sleep on the weekends to “make up” for lost sleep during the week, all you are doing is messing up your circadian rhythms even more. You will be more tired on Monday, not refreshed. The best thing you can do for yourself is maintain your sleep routine within an hour on weekends.

Busy bedroom – Your bedroom should be a haven of sleep and sex, not an additional living area of your house or apartment. Keep the bedroom quiet, contained, and screen-free (yes, even from TV’s!), and only get into the bed to sleep or have sex. Even if you have a studio apartment, as many of my friends do, you can set up the “bedroom side” of your apartment to be tranquil by facing it away from media or by blocking it off with a huge bookshelf. It’s more than feng shui magic – keeping your bedroom sacred creates a psychological and physiological cue for relaxation and sleep.

Perfectionism – No one sleeps in exactly the same way. For some people, it is very common to wake up in the middle of the night. Other people cannot sleep eight hours at a stretch, and need to nap daily. Age, as well as the age of your children, is a factor to consider in creating a good sleeping habit. The key is to get consistent and work with your own quirks – and know that your child won’t be six months old forever!

You can get sufficient sleep and reap the benefits of a consistent sleep cycle, but I must add a disclaimer: for some people, it takes time to see results. Sometimes weeks or more. Trust the process, be patient with yourself, and keep following healthy tips until you begin to enjoy better sleep!

Final consideration: if you are about to make a major life scheduling change, such as changing your work schedule from starting at 10 AM to starting at 6 AM, you need to treat the upcoming change exactly like jet lag. The rule of jet lag is one hour per day – meaning that each day, you should shift your sleeping and waking by one hour in the direction of your new schedule. This will prevent actual jet lag from happening for your entire first week on your new schedule. Smooth transitions are key when it comes to a healthy sleeping schedule!

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