“It’s late, but one more episode won’t hurt .”
“I’m too busy to go to bed early.”
“I only need 5 hours of sleep.”
These common phrases and mentalities perpetuate the idea that sleep should be one of the last things on the list of priorities for overall health and wellness. BUT it’s one of the most important ingredients to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and bodyweight.
If you’ve heard that you should be sleeping 7-9 hours each night, then you’ve heard correctly. Seven to nine hours isn’t just some arbitrary number that the proverbial “they” told you. It’s the recommended amount of sleep your body needs to ward off diseases such as: high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. (Just ask Harvard) This number also plays a role in conditions such as migraines, depression, and brain fog.
So why do many of us ignore the science, double down on the mid-day lattes, and watch “just one more episode” on Netflix, when the FREE fountain of youth is waiting on your pillow?
One answer is that we don’t see the gains the way we do when we sweat through a workout. Because of the more tangible effects (sweat, calories burned, muscle fatigue) people are often more inclined to change their diet and exercise to control weight, as opposed to focusing on improving their sleep. However, sleep might be the missing piece.
The importance of sleep in muscle growth
Yes, you build muscle during training, lifting and running, but it’s only part of the equation. Once your workout is over, your body begins to react to the stimulus of your workout and to the damage you induced. Working out causes micro-damage within muscle tissue, and during a good night’s rest your body works to repair and replace cells and tissues, thus, building stronger muscles over time.
Get sufficient sleep, and you’ll reach your fitness goals even more efficiently.
Sleep and weight
Sleep duration directly relates to the body’s production of appetite-regulating hormones. When you don’t sleep enough, the hormone ghrelin goes up, which increases your appetite. At the same time, it lowers levels of the hormone leptin, which causes you to feel less full. Have you ever felt tired and all you want are waffles, or bagels, and chocolate? This is a normal response to fatigue, and sleeping more will help balance out these hormones.
Tips on how to prioritize sleep
It might be challenging when you start making changes, because your body has become accustomed to your routine. So just start, be patient, and incrementally improve your efforts and increase your goals until you are sleeping like a baby. Pick a few of these tips to try.
Wind down a few minutes earlier
Put your screens away at least an hour before bed
Give your eyes a break with blue light-blocking glasses
Do something relaxing, like read, meditate, journal, take a warm bath, or sip some nighttime tea
Get comfy in PJ’s that aren’t too hot or too cold
Invest in some cooling sheets
Set the room to a cool, comfortable temperature
Drown out distractions with white noise
Calm your mind by spritzing your pillow with a lavender s
Track your sleep with a smart device or sleep app
So, the next time you decide to binge the latest episode (or 3) of whatever is trending on your favorite streaming service, pause. Ask yourself if it’s worth risking the gains you’re trying to make in the gym, and in the kitchen. Your body goals are begging for more rest.
Give it a try and take notes in a journal about what you’re implementing and how you feel. The changes might be subtle at first, so take the time to write down your sleep duration, weight, mood, and pay attention to even the slightes benefits. Over time, they may add up in ways you never “dreamed”.