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5 Reasons (Quality) Sleep Matters

Being healthy is all about the choices we make, and what we prioritize every day. We choose to head to the gym instead of crashing on the couch. We make the choice of a salad over a burger and fries. We choose to spend money on trainers, nutrition coaches, massage therapists, and supplements all in the pursuit of being healthy and sexy AF.

Yet, we neglect the simplest tool in our toolbox: Sleep.

Oh that one’s a touchy subject, it is. Bring up sleep around your friends and co-workers and something strange happens: we brag about how little sleep we got last night as if the worst of the bunch gets a prize.

Getting enough sleep, 7-9 hours for adults (26-64 years), is paramount to your health and fitness.

However, most of us simply don’t get enough of it and the reason for that (for 85% of people) is entirely voluntary.

***Now, if you have a newborn or toddler this doesn’t apply to you. Everyone else: This one’s for you!

Getting more sleep really comes down to choices and priorities (I brought it back full circle!).

We make “me time” a priority: late night TV, Internet, scrolling mindlessly on our phone, and whatever else you do after 10pm. That is, besides sex. Because unsurprisingly, we sleep better after a bout of… stress relief.

So, in part 1 of this 3-part blog series about all things SLEEP – here is WHY sleep matters. Stay tuned for HOW to get better sleep coming at you soon!


WHY YOUR SLEEP MATTERS:

#1.  Your Body Composition

The most impactful tool in your “toolbox of fat loss and general health” might not be your workout regimen or your nutrition.

For many of us, it is ADEQUATE, HIGH-QUALITY SLEEP!

Research shows adults who sleep less than 7 hours per night tend to have a higher Body Mass Index (based on height and weight) and Body Fat Percentage (percentage of your body made up of fat). This relationship is dose-responsive as well meaning the less someone slept, the higher their expected BMI. Sleep less, gain more fat.

“One longitudinal study of 500 adults found that, by age 27, those who slept less than 6 hours per night were 7.5 times more likely to have a higher BMI (the researchers controlled for family history, physical activity, and demographic factors)”.

There isn’t one reason why, rather a number of different factors in play. From appetite hormones and their role on metabolism, to fatigue and energy a veritable hurricane of factors emerge. One of the most crucial is the appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin, Ghrelin, and Your Appetite

Studies show that Leptin (hormone that suppresses appetite) will decrease while ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates appetite) will increase with inadequate sleep. Essentially, you feel hungrier and have a harder time staying satisfied after a bout of late night sleeplessness. These don’t magically make you gain weight, you simply eat more on less sleep.

Why this is so important: If your goal is to lose fat, being hungry is totally normal. However, it will become much harder to stay satisfied between meals when your leptin and ghrelin levels are out of tune with your body’s actual needs.

 

#2. Your Health

Sleeping less than 7.5 hours of sleep each night puts you at greater risk for heart attack, stroke and insulin resistance/glucose intolerance which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. So on top of your body fat gain, you can expect to live in high risk of, well, a shitty life.

Insulin Resistance, Glucose Intolerance, and Diabetes

In the interest of not getting too heavy on research or beating a dead horse, I will give you a simple summation from the National Sleep Foundation:

“…With ongoing sleep loss, less insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar) is released in the body after you eat. Meanwhile, your body secretes more stress hormones (such as cortisol), which helps you stay awake but makes it harder for insulin to do its job effectively. The net effect: Too much glucose stays in the bloodstream, which can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Immune System

When we sleep our bodies produce and release cytokines, a type of protein targeting infection and inflammation. With inadequate sleep, our bodies don’t produce as much of these infection fighting substances which may lead to a weakened immune response. With flu season on its way, getting enough sleep is going to be very important!

 

#3. Your Mind + Brain Function

Besides body composition and disease (who cares about being fit and healthy, right?!), inadequate sleep is a massive burden on your day to day life.

From fatigue and mood to response time and brain function, your body simply cannot perform at an optimal level without 7+ hours of sleep. We are kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.

Check this out: Going 24 hours without sleep is similar to performing with a blood alcohol level of 0.1%! Basically, you are living life with a buzz.

Good luck on that next presentation, Barb!

Obviously, there will be times when you get inadequate sleep but these should be few and far between – probably the opposite of your sleep schedule right now.


IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP BY DOING THIS!

The first step towards improving your sleep cycle is going to bed at a decent hour. Seems simple but think about it – when’s the last time you actually did this? Passing out after a Brown’s game doesn’t count!

Here’s what to do:

  • Designate a bed time every night allowing for adequate sleep, about 7-8 hours each night. If it helps, set a timer on your phone as a reminder!

  • This designated time is non-negotiable as in, when that bed-time hits you MUST head to the bedroom. No bargaining! Instead, listen to the clear headed version of yourself that made the decision to get more sleep.

While our intentions might be good, especially when first waking in the morning after a shitty night’s sleep “OMG I stayed up waay too late! I am definitely going to bed early tonight!” there are endless distractions we give into come 8, 9 and 10pm at night.

This is especially true if you’ve endured a long day and feel you need “down time” to unwind. Start making some of that down time quality sleep and watch as your days become more manageable.

Coach Matty B’s Bedtime: My bedtime is variable. On early work mornings, I set my alarm for 9:00pm to start to my sleep ritual (more on this in the next blog) with an aim to fall asleep by 9:45pm. On a more regular morning, it is set for 10:45pm with an aim to fall asleep by 11:30pm. It works for me, I get my sleep, and my sunny disposition lights up your lives.


So there you have it, a short but important list of WHY YOUR SLEEP MATTERS!

Aside from feeling tired, quality sleep has such profound impact on the way we look, the way we feel and our quality of life.

In addition to regular exercise and proper nutrition habits (eating real foods), other lifestyle habits like sleep are equally as important.

If your goal is to be healthy and enjoy a long life, all of your lifestyle habits need to reflect this. Exercise and eating healthy just aren’t going to be enough.

 

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Smooches

 

References:

“All About Sleep.” Precision Nutrition, 13 Aug. 2019, https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-sleep.

Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research, Colten HR and Altevogt BM (ed.), Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem, Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 2006.

Morselli, Lisa, et al. “Role of Sleep Duration in the Regulation of Glucose Metabolism and Appetite.” Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 24, no. 5, 2010, pp. 687–702., doi:10.1016/j.beem.2010.07.005.

National Sleep Foundation.  National Sleep Foundation 2000 Omnibus “Sleep in America” Poll.  Accessed November 13, 2008.

Sekine M, et al.  A dose-response relationship between short sleeping hours and childhood obesity: results of the Toyama Birth Cohort Study.  Child: Care, Health & Development 2002;28:163-170.

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