Sleep. Catching Zzzzz’s. Getting some shut eye…

Whatever we call it, we all know it’s important stuff. What we don’t perhaps realise is just HOW important it is when trying to reaching your fitness and/or weight loss goals. Not getting enough sleep effects your mood, your general well being and can seriously affect your waistline too. It’s so crucial, yet many of us just don’t get enough. We’re talking 7-8 hours of good quality, unbroken sleep (unless you’re a parent of course!). Still need convincing? Check out these sleep loving facts below…

Sleep and your diet

Want to lose weight and get in shape? The common answer to this is often “Eat less and move more.” Seems simple enough. But it’s not always that simple at all. You may WANT to eat well and exercise, even making good plans to do so, but it can sometimes feel impossible and off the wagon you may fall. We’re often so busy juggling our work, commitments, childcare, even socialising that we simply forget to get enough sleep. And what most don’t realise is that sleep is not only important for concentration and mood, it is essential for reaching your diet and fitness goals. Studies have shown that those whom sleep for less than 7 hours per night, tend to lose half the fat to those who sleep for 7 hours or over- even if following exactly the same diet. You’ll also feel hungrier, will be less satisfied after snacks and meals, and will lack the energy to work out. Maybe it needs to be “Eat less, move and sleep more” instead!

Poor sleep also changes your fat cells, changing the way your body uses insulin which helps to remove fatty acids and lipids from your blood stream. Without getting too technical, let’s just say this is bad and can even lead to insulin resistance which can cause Diabetes.

We all know this one- Sleep deprivation makes you crave food… and not healthy food at that! Yes, lack of sleep doesn’t just make you feel tired, it is indeed your nemesis when it comes to getting healthy and/or losing weight. Not only does it change your fat cells, but it also causes cortisol (a stress hormone often associated with weight gain) levels to rise which makes you want food.

Sleep deprivation makes you select greater portion sizes of all food too! And we all know that bigger portions= bigger waist lines!


Sleep and Exercise

Less sleep, less muscle There’s another big reason why ourselves plus fitness magazines and forums always harp on about the importance of sleep. If you don’t get enough, you just won’t see the same results as you would if you DID get enough sleep. And, aside from diet, this comes down to muscle.

Our body tends to repair any damage done to your cells and tissues whilst you are asleep. At the start of the night and during slow wave sleep, your body also releases growth hormone.. essential for repair and recovery. Lack of sleep, therefore, is linked to muscle loss, which in turn slows down your metabolism and can increase the risk of injury too.

Lack of sleep zaps your energy to work-out.
Even the best of intentions to exercise can fall to the wayside if we feel tired. You WANT to (or know that you need to), but something holds you back. That little voice tells you not to bother, that it’s ok… you can work-out tomorrow instead as you are just too exhausted. Which IS fine if it’s a one-off, and if you DO work-out the next day but if not, this inactivity can go on and on until good sleep is resumed. When you’re suffering from slept debt, everything you do feels more challenging, specifically your workouts. Team this with the effect sleep deprivation has on your diet, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

You’ll have better reactions, increasing your ability to perform some activities or work-outs such as boxing, agility training, bleep tests etc.

More sleep can lead to better moods plus fewer problems with depression and anxiety. People who sleep less tend to have more symptoms of depression, lower self esteem, and anxiety — although it is possible that these symptoms/ conditions may cause people to sleep less too. Still, studies have shown that lack of sleep has an even stronger effect on mood than it does on cognitive ability or motor function.

More sleep means healthier skin. Following on nicely, further research shows that poor sleep, depression, anxiety, and chronic skin problems all go together. It is said that if you have better sleep, our skin recovers better from exposure to ultraviolet light plus will show fewer signs of aging too.

You’ll be healthier all round as sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system, therefore more sleep helps to keep illnesses at bay. From catching a common cold, to developing certain types of cancer, sleep can help with prevention.


Can’t sleep/ won’t sleep?

Now that you know how important sleep really is, here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Take a nice hot bath
  • Turn off all digital devices 60 minutes before bedtime… you could read a good book to relax the mind instead
  • Set a bedtime reminder on your phone, the key then is not to go back on your phone! (See above)
  • Spray Lavender on your pillows before getting into bed
  • Limit caffeine drinks only up to mid-day if you can help it, maybe a (reduced calorie) hot chocolate before bed instead?

Happy Dreaming!


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