Contributing Author: Jonathan Aluzas of Arena Fitness
Sleep deprivation, an American epidemic…
Sleep deprivation and weight gain. Is there a relationship? Well…..
We are chronically sleep-deprived and stressed out. This is a combination that is contributing to an enormous number of health issues, not the least of which are weight gain and muscle loss.
And we’re so cavalier about it, coining cute phrases, like:
“You can rest when you’re dead!”
(Note to reader: this may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sleep deprivation can lead to obesity and heart disease which may lead to an early death, so, yeah, you can rest then but you’re leaving the party early…)
We need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night…
I know plenty of people who only get 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night and wear it as a badge of honor. But even if you don’t FEEL the symptoms of sleep deprivation, your body is suffering from them.
If you don’t get ample sleep there are a whole host of physiological processes that are getting short-changed, but, seeing as fat loss and muscle gain (or maintenance) seem to be the things that rank highest on our priority lists, let’s address that first.
You Need To Get Enough Sleep If You Ever Want To See Your Abs
There’s a saying: lean bodies are built in the gym and kitchen. Maybe we should also say that “lean bodies are built in bed.”
Get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about sleep.
Proper nutrition and exercise are front and center in the quest for abs, but sleep is right behind them. If you don’t allow your body to recover, you’re going to set your results back significantly.
So what is it about sleep and recovery that makes it important to fat loss?
Sleep Deprivation leads to unhealthy behavior…
When you are struggling with a sleep deficit you make bad decisions.
“When you have sleep deprivation and are running on low energy, you automatically go for a bag of potato chips or other comfort foods,” saysSusan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
The immediate result? You may be able to fight off sleepiness. The ultimate result? Unwanted pounds as poor food choices coupled with lack of exercise set the stage for obesity and further sleep loss.
In other words, when you’re sleepy, you eat poorly.
You’re also more likely to skip a workout.
It also messes up your hormone balance…
It’s only during our sleep cycles that our cells are able to clean up our systems, rebalance our hormones, sweep up our digestion system and build new cells (like skin, hair, nails and muscles).
When we don’t give our bodies enough time to recover and repair, we actually end up with greater stress hormone levels (cortisone) and inflammation – causing diseases, weight gain and extremely low energy levels.
Exactly how lack of sleep affects our ability to lose weight has a lot to do with our nightly hormones, explains Breus.
The two hormones that are key in this process are ghrelin and leptin. “Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin,” Breus says. “Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin.”
More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain.
“You are eating more, plus your metabolism is slower when you are sleep-deprived,” Breus says.
And might even contribute to reduction of lean muscle.
Hormonal imbalance and inflammation are the root of all illnesses such as cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease… Scary stuff to look forward to if you neglect your health.
So, what should you do…
If you want to preserve your health, reduce stress, lose body fat and retain muscle, you need to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day.
Here are some Sleep Hygiene recommendations to maximize your likelihood of success:
Maintain a regular sleep routine
- Go to bed at the same time. Wake up at the same time. Ideally, your schedule will remain the same (+/- 20 minutes) every night of the week.
Avoid naps if possible
- Naps decrease the ‘Sleep Debt’ that is so necessary for easy sleep onset.
- Each of us needs a certain amount of sleep per 24-hour period. We need that amount, and we don’t need more than that.
- When we take naps, it decreases the amount of sleep that we need the next night – which may cause sleep fragmentation and difficulty initiating sleep, and may lead to insomnia.
Don’t stay in bed awake for more than 5-10 minutes.
- If you find your mind racing, or worrying about not being able to sleep during the middle of the night, get out of bed, and sit in a chair in the dark. Do your mind racing in the chair until you are sleepy, then return to bed. No TV or internet during these periods! That will just stimulate you more than desired.
- If this happens several times during the night, that is OK. Just maintain your regular wake time, and try to avoid naps.
Don’t watch TV or read in bed.
- When you watch TV or read in bed, you associate the bed with wakefulness.
- The bed is reserved for two things – sleep and hanky panky.
Do not drink caffeine inappropriately
- The effects of caffeine may last for several hours after ingestion. Caffeine can fragment sleep, and cause difficulty initiating sleep. If you drink caffeine, use it only before noon.
- Remember that soda and tea contain caffeine as well.
Avoid inappropriate substances that interfere with sleep
- Cigarettes, alcohol, and over-the-counter medications may cause fragmented sleep.
- Exercise before 2 pm every day. Exercise promotes continuous sleep.
- Avoid rigorous exercise before bedtime. Rigorous exercise circulates endorphins into the body which may cause difficulty initiating sleep.
Have a quiet, comfortable bedroom
- Set your bedroom thermostat at a comfortable temperature. Generally, a little cooler is better than a little warmer.
- Turn off the TV and other extraneous noise that may disrupt sleep. Background ‘white noise’ like a fan is OK.
- If your pets awaken you, keep them outside the bedroom.
- Your bedroom should be dark. Turn off bright lights.
- Have a comfortable mattress.
If you are a ‘clock watcher’ at night, hide the clock.
Have a comfortable pre-bedtime routine
- A warm bath, shower
- Meditation, or quiet time
If you want to reduce body fat and preserve lean muscle, you need to get your sleep! See you next week! Tune in next week to see Joe Garcia discuss H.I.I.T. training and why you should be doing it!