Is there actually someone in their twenties-thirties who gets enough sleep? If you're out there, we want to know.
We know we told you that abs are made in the kitchen and gym, but abs are also made in the bedroom. Ew, not like that! Get your mind out of the gutter.
Getting the right amount of restful sleep is essential for achieving your weight goals. Before you close out this article because you've already read everything you need to and want to go back to bed, let's talk about how sleep affects your goals and what you can do to get a better quality of sleep.
Why You Need to Sleep to Hit Your Fitness Goals
The quantity and quality of sleep you get each night directly affects your eating and exercise patterns. Adults require anywhere from 6-8 hours of sleep to perform their best.
If you're getting the right number of hours of sleep but you constantly wake up feeling like you only slept for a minute, you might not be getting the right amount of restful sleep. The quality of your sleep goes hand in hand with your sleep cycle, and that's a lot of science stuff we're not getting into in this article. But if y'all are interested in learning about the science of sleep, we can make that happen in the future.
Not Enough Sleep = Eating More The Next Day
If your body isn't well-rested, it may begin to signal that it needs external things to compensate for the lack of rest. And sometimes these signals are not indicative of what your body actually needs.
Since food is a major source of energy for your body, your brain is going to begin thinking "Huh, I'm exhausted, therefore I must need more food." But your sleepy brain thinks that foods with higher caloric or sugar values will be better for giving you the energy boost you need. So instead of reaching for fruit, you reach for a doughnut.
Your body produces a hormone called Ghrelin that indicates your stomach is empty and it's time to eat. When you're full, your body produces the hormone Leptin to let you know it's time to stop eating. If you don't get enough sleep, your body overproduces Ghrelin and doesn't produce enough Leptin to keep up, leaving you feeling tired and hungry.
In English: science says sleepy people have less willpower.
Not enough sleep = lower metabolism
Stop taking supplements to speed up your metabolism and go back to sleep.
Multiple studies have shown that sleep deprivation throws off your natural resting metabolism. Yes, your metabolism is at its lowest while you're sleeping and when you wake up in the morning. But limiting your sleep leads to metabolic disregulation.
In one study, researchers kept 15 men awake for 24 hours and observed their metabolic reaction to sleep deprivation. On average, their resting metabolic rate decreased by 5% and their metabolic rate after eating decreased by 20%.
Not Enough Sleep = Lack of Physical Motivation
When you're sleepy, the last thing you want to do is work out. Getting through the work day or getting off the couch already takes a great deal of effort. If you do decide to power through the tired and exercise, you're more likely to tire out and call it quits sooner than you would if you're well-rested.
It's a vicious cycle because better sleep = better exercise and better exercise = better sleep. Definitely a "which came first: the chicken or the egg?" scenario.
If you're trying to exercise while tired to get better sleep that night, it's probably best to stay away from heavy weights or balancing activities so you don't injure yourself. (That's science, not us being mean.)
Not Enough Sleep = Disruption of Insulin Use
If your cells begin to resist insulin, then you end up with more sugar in your bloodstream. Excess insulin in the bloodstream tricks your body into thinking it needs to store more calories as fat cells. The extra insulin then begins storing fat cells in places you don't want fat cells (like your liver). Insulin resistance is a precursor to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
So where does sleep fit in to all this? In a study done by the University of Chicago, the insulin sensitivity of subjects who were sleep deprived for only four days dropped by 30%. Getting the proper amount of sleep ensures that your cells continue to absorb insulin the right way.
In short: Sleeping saves you from having to buy over-priced insulin from your local pharmacy.
Improving the Quality of Your Sleep
Okay, so now that we know why we need to get more sleep, let's talk about how we can sleep better.
Yeah, this one's kinda cheating because we talked about it in the last section. But exercising consistently has proven to be a great way to get restful sleep.
Think about a puppy. If you leave your puppy home alone all day, when you come home all that pup will want to do is play and play and play and play and play. But if you take your (fully vaccinated) puppy to the dog park for an hour and it can run around and play with other dogs, then it's going to sleep so well that night. Why? Because it tired itself out during the day.
We're not saying you're a dog, but we are saying that you gotta tucker yourself out.
Stress is the number one enemy of sleep. We all lay awake at night thinking about all the sh*t we did that day or need to do the next day. Better sleep begins with letting go of all of the stressors of the day.
You can journal, stretch, meditate, read, or another relaxing activity before bed. Studies have also shown that taking time away from screens before bed can also increase relaxation and benefit your sleep patterns. So if scrolling Instagram if your lullaby, you might need to find another pre-bedtime activity.
Avoid Stimulants Before Bed
If you're a coffee addict like us, set a cut-off time for your last caffeinated cup. If you consume all of your daily caffeine before 4 pm, it'll be much easier to get to bed later that night. The same goes for soda because, yes, even some diet sodas have caffeine.
Alcohol is also technically a stimulant. We already hear "but a glass of wine makes me sleepy!" Sure, sometimes alcohol can but you to sleep, but it's not always restful sleep. The thing is, you're an adult. It's highly likely that you're going to drink at night every now and then. The key is to make it an "every now and then" thing as much as possible. Everything in moderation, right?
Last but not least, we're also gonna categorize food as a stimulant because food is energy. There's a myth out there that eating late at night makes you gain weight. That's not directly true, but it is indirectly true because eating late tends to keep you up longer and reduce the amount of sleep you get. And as we've established multiple times throughout this article, less sleep leads to poor eating habits and weight gain.
Set A Routine
Aim to go to bed and get up at the same times every day and night--even on weekends and vacation. We know this is hard to do all the time, but establishing a routine can help your body sleep better.
Again, you're an adult. We can't tell you what to do. We're just here to offer suggestions to help you be your best self. At the end of the day, it's better to get the right amount of good quality sleep than it is to normalize your sleep schedule.
If you've tried everything and you still can't seem to get a good amount of sleep, contact your primary care physician to check for any underlying issues.
If you're looking for an opportunity to exercise to improve your sleep, book a session with Samantha.
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