Sleeping 7+ hours/night is our fourth “daily habit” for the CrossFit Recreate Healthy Habits Challenge this November. Most people know that daily habits, specifically with nutrition and exercise are important factors that contribute to a person’s body composition and overall health. What most people don’t know is that proper sleep is equally as important.
Being short on sleep can present a road block for those looking to lose weight and improve their health. Here are 5 reasons why lack of sleep may be getting in the way of your health journey:
#1 Leads to Increased Appetite
A person's appetite is controlled by two major hormones: Ghrelin (stimulates appetite) and Leptin (suppresses appetite).
When on a proper sleeping pattern of 8+ hours the brain releases the two hormones on and off, regulating normal feelings of hunger. When sleeping patterns of 6 hours or less occur, GHerlin and Leptin levels alter irregularly.
According to healthline.com: “A study of over 1,000 people found that those who slept for short durations had 14.9% higher ghrelin levels and 15.5% lower leptin levels than those who got adequate sleep.”
# 2 Fuels Cravings & Promotes Unhealthy Eating Habits
Think about it: when you are suffering from sleep loss you are more tempted to grab a latte before work or reach for a donut in an effort to recharge. Unhealthy foods not only appear easier, but they also send a stimulus to a tired brain.
Lack of sleep also alters the brain’s frontal lobe, making healthy choices seem inadequate and making unhealthy choices seem irresistible. The frontal lobe controls the brain’s ability for complex decision making. When the brain is suffering from lack of rest it’s activity becomes dull, closely mimicking the mental state of being drunk in terms of decision making.
Being overtired also increases the brain’s amygdala (the reward region of the brain), making the act of eating more enjoyable, especially during the evening. This also increases cravings for high-fat junk foods such as cookies, chips, and ice cream.
According to the National Sleep Foundation: “People who don’t get enough sleep eat twice as much fat and more than 300 extra calories the next day, compared with those who sleep for eight hours.”
#3 Decreases Metabolism
Sleep affects the body’s ability to produce and process insulin properly. This can lead to weight gain as well as more serious medical problems such as diabetes.
When the body does not respond properly to insulin, glucose levels rise, making it difficult for the body to process fats directly from the bloodstream. When this occurs the body inadvertently process and stores them as fat.
“After sleeping 4 hours a night for 4 nights, the subjects’ whole-body insulin response decreased by an average of 16%, and the fat cells’ insulin response decreased by 30%. The researchers say that those levels are akin to the levels seen in diabetics or the obese,” says the New York Times.
Studies have also shown that lack of sleep can cause muscle loss. This affects your metabolism in the sense that muscle burns more calories at rest than fat, making muscle loss a large factor in the decrease of resting metabolic rate.
#4 Decreases Physical Activity
We’ve all experienced daytime fatigue after a night of restless sleep. When you are tired you are more likely to spend the day in bed or on the couch. This exhaustion develops a lack of motivation to exercise and stops people from maintaining an active lifestyle.
Sleep still impacts your physical performance even if you are one of those strong willed individuals who still make it to the gym after a restless night. Studies have shown that lack of sleep causes a decrease in the intensity, quality and quantity of a workout. When you are tired, it is more likely that you will get worn out faster during physical activity than if you were fully rested.
# 5 Affects Recovery
Recovery is an essential part of living a healthy lifestyle and is equally as important as exercise. Exercise depletes energy and fluids, while breaking down muscle. Sleep is similar to nutrition in terms of recovery as it is an element that fuels and repairs your body for physical activity. Your sleeping habits can reduce the body’s ability to rebuild muscle and replenish nutrients. This will decrease your ability to maintain speed, accuracy, and endurance.
Studies also show that sleep deprivation increases the level of stress hormones, specifically cortisol, that your body produces. This can pose a greater risk of injury as the body is not fully prepared for physical performance.
Tips and Tricks for a Better Nights Sleep
Your sleeping patterns will affect you both mentally and physically. Getting the proper recommended amount of sleep each night is an important step in attaining your overall health goals. Here are some ways we have found to help you catch up on some much needed shut eye:
- Shut down and avoid all electronics at least an hour before you go to bed.
- Create a nighttime routine/schedule and stick to it.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day/night.
- Reduce irregular or long daytime naps
- Take a melatonin supplement to help you get to sleep (Pistachios contain about 660 nanograms melatonin per gram)
Post By Samantha McKain