The Link Between Sleep and Health: What You Need to Know
If you are consistently working hard to meet your health and fitness goals, and still not seeing the results you want and expect, the problem may be poor sleep. For many who are juggling a family and a busy schedule, sleep may be the factor that has to fall by the wayside. However, once you understand the impact poor sleep has on your health, you may have to reconsider rearranging your schedule and moving sleep closer to the top of your list.
Sleep and Weight Loss
A lot of people visit the gym to lose some weight and gain muscle. Unfortunately, inadequate sleep could be sabotaging your efforts. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who typically slept for less than 6.5 hours and were able to bring that number up to 8.5 hours organically reduced their daily intake by 270 calories. That might not sound like a lot, but over the course of a year that would add up to around 26 lbs.
Essentially, people have a harder time regulating their appetite when they are sleep deprived. Sleep directly affects the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which control hunger. Sleep deprivation is also associated with cravings, larger food portions, and a higher chocolate and fat intake.
Sleep and Athletic Recovery
Recovery is a key part of any fitness routine. For athletes, sleep allows the heart to rest and tissue to repair. Without enough sleep, you can become more prone to injury, fatigue, and illnesses. In addition, sleep has a positive effect on cognitive abilities. If you are learning new exercises and movements in the gym, a well-rested brain will be able to carve new pathways and you will make more progress faster.
Sleep and Overall Health
Beyond the effects on weight loss and recovery, poor sleep can cause a whole host of other health problems. During sleep, your blood pressure is able to drop and your heart can rest. Without enough time to drop, you can start experiencing persistent high blood pressure. Poor sleep is also tied to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, which are the first warning signs of diabetes. Finally, sleep can play a major role in depression. Simply getting more sleep can help lift your mood and help you feel more motivated to take part in other self-care activities that will improve your mental health.
Improving Sleep Quality
The latest research shows that the most effective way to improve sleep is to ditch the screens before bed. If you are going to make one change to your sleep habits, it should be to get rid of your phone, tablet or TV at least 30 minutes before bed. If you have a habit of reaching for your phone, have it charging in another room while you sleep. Other ways to improve sleep include:
- Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but its depressant effects can prevent you from reaching a deep sleep state and even cause sleep apnea.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule. Not only will this help you to fall asleep faster, it will also prevent you from experiencing elevated blood sugar levels as your body works to regulate insulin.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark and at the right temperature for you to relax.
- Get some exercise. Sleep will help you get the most out of your workouts and exercising will help you sleep better.
Sleep is more than just about not feeling tired. It actually affects all sorts of hormones and neurotransmitters in your body that help you regulate mood, appetite, and much more. As mentioned, if you can’t totally revamp your sleep schedule, at the very least replace your phone with a book as part of your pre-bedtime routine.