Sleep, Why You Need it and How to Do it Better
I’m not a morning person. I always set an alarm, or three, to ensure that I wake up exactly when I need to. Then I end up pushing the snooze button time and time again as I attempt to get a little more shut-eye. When I’m finally awake and out of bed, I’d rather not talk until given a few minutes (or hours!) to fully emerge from my sleepy stupor. Sound familiar?
Why sleep is important
Without sleep our body functions at less than 100 percent. In fact, sleep deprivation mimics the effects of alcohol consumption. Studies show that response speeds can be lowered by 50 percent and performance on some tests was equal to or worse than a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent. So if you are feeling sleep deprived, you’ve probably noticed your inability to function at 100 percent. What’s more, your workout intensity and reaction time is impacted.
Sleep consists of five stages that repeat throughout the night every 60-90 minutes. You cycle through these stages 4-6 times each night. When you get fewer hours of sleep, you do not get fully rested and this wreaks havoc on your health and ability to function. Whether your sleep is interrupted or you get fewer than 7 hours, each interruption restarts the sleep cycles. When you are continually getting interrupted sleep, you can never make it through a complete cycle and reach the deepest stages of sleep.
Sleep itself, especially the REM cycle, will replenish both your energy and increase brain power. When you can’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t have time to repair itself. Your hormones can get out of balance and you are unable to retain information as well as someone who is well rested.
Luckily, there is a simple fix. Get more sleep. Probably not what you wanted to hear. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or exercise trick to help you feel more rested. You truly need to sleep an average of 7-9 hours a night to feel fully rested and reach your fitness and weight loss goals.
How sleep deprivation leads to weight gain and sabotages your fitness goals
Lack of sleep makes you feel sluggish
If you have ever exercised on just a few hours of sleep you probably know that sluggish feeling during your workout. The weights feel heavier, during cardio bursts your heart rate spikes quicker and all you want to do is lay down and take a nap. Needless to say, your workout is not anywhere close to where it should be.
When it comes to diet, sleep, exercise and health, everything in your body is interconnected. What you eat affects your energy levels. Sleep affects reaction time and brain function. Weight loss is never decided by just one factor. Pair adequate sleep with healthy eating and workouts, and you’ll see the results you are looking for much faster.
You are more likely to want to eat more
A lack of sleep affects your hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin has been described as the ‘hunger hormone’ because it’s job is to stimulate appetite and is known to promote fat storage. In opposition, leptin is the hormone that tells your brain when it is time to quit eating. It is also responsible for telling our body when to burn calories and when to store fat.
While there are many factors that affect leptin and ghrelin, sleep deprivation has been identified as a contributing factor to weight gain and the body’s tendency to store fat. When subjects in one study were subjected to sleep restriction, they experienced suppressed levels of leptin and increased levels of ghrelin. This caused them to eat excessive amounts of food without their body signaling them when they were full.
How getting adequate sleep aids in weight loss and fitness goals
When you are trying to change your diet and incorporate exercise, ensuring that you get adequate sleep will help you see results faster. A well rested body is able to control portion sizes and will have increased energy. Both lead to weight loss and fitness success.
Better control of what you eat
When we are sleep deprived, we are more likely to eat excess food. This may be because the lipid in our bloodstream, endocannabinoid, is altered. This specific type, called 2-AG, becomes altered when you get too little sleep. This alteration causes you to desire more food. More food equals weight gain.
Focusing on getting more sleep can help you better control how much you eat. When your hormones are acting as they should, you will be less likely to snack when you aren’t hungry and your body will signal you when it is time to stop eating.
More sleep can also lead to increased energy. When you sleep, your energy metabolism is reduced. Your body temperature drops and your caloric needs decrease. This is when your body will recover and replenish your energy for the next day. If you don’t sleep, your energy reserves remain depleted and your energy the following day suffers.
In order to reach your fitness goals, especially with the HIIT workouts found in the 8fit app, you need sleep. While you sleep, your body repairs your muscles at the cellular level, which gives you more energy the following day. Adequate sleep allows you to truly give 100% in every workout.
How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep
Do these things:
- Go to bed earlier. If you are going to bed past midnight, try to gradually move your bedtime up. Try 11:30pm and then 11pm. This will allow you to get more sleep and feel more rested.
- Keep your room dark. Lights send signals to your brain that it is day time. Keeping your windows covered and lights to a minimum helps your brain shut off faster and tells your body that it is nighttime and time to sleep.
- Stick to a schedule. Our bodies work best when they are on a schedule. Training your body to go to sleep at 10pm and wake up at 7am teaches your body when to start preparing for bed. When you consistently turn in for the night, your body begins adapting to this and will naturally start getting sleepy around 10pm every night.
- Stretch before bedtime.Yoga poses and stretching releases the day’s tensions. Stretching for just 5-10 minutes before bed can help your body relax and help you go to sleep sooner.
- Shut down anything with screens. Turn off computers, phones, and the TV. The blue light given off by your cell phone or TV actually prevents your body from producing sleep inducing melatonin. Try to shut these off an hour or two before bedtime, and don’t sleep with the TV on.
- Don’t eat before bed. heavy meal or excessive snacking can make it hard to fall asleep. Try to finish eating at least 2 hours before bed to give your food time to digest.
- Get a good mattress. If you’ve ever slept in an uncomfortable hotel bed, you know how important it is to sleep on a comfortable mattress. A mattress that is too hard or too soft can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Eating sugary foods or consuming caffeine within 3 hours of bedtime. Consuming sugar before bed creates a spike in blood glucose levels and can keep you awake due to increased energy levels. Caffeine is a stimulant used to keep you from falling asleep, so it is no wonder that you shouldn’t drink it right before bed. It can keep you awake for hours.
- Drinking alcohol. While alcohol may help you fall asleep, during the second half of the night it has been shown to cause sleep disruptions. Avoid drinking before bed and you will have an overall more restful night.
- Drinking too much water. Staying hydrated is great, but chugging a lot of water right before bed will just make you have to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. Instead, hydrate throughout the day and try not to drink a lot of water right before bed.
- Turning up the heat. Studies show that keeping your head cool is helpful for deep sleep, so you can keep your home thermostat low and still layer up under a cozy blanket. Keep your in-home temperature somewhere between 60-70 degrees before bed, the exact temperature for ideal sleep should be decided by trial and error by you.
- Sleeping with your pets. They are cute, cuddly and man’s best friend, but allowing your pets to sleep in your bed could be contributing to your insomnia. A study by the University of Kansas Medical Center surveyed 148 pet owners and found that 30 percent of them were awakened by their pet at least once per night. To avoid being woken up, let your pet sleep on the floor, in their own pet bed or even in another room.
How 8fit can help
We can’t regulate when you go to bed, but using 8fit can help you regulate your diet and fit in a workout. 8fit meals are low in sugar and won’t spike your blood sugar. Having a meal you make from 8fit recipes will not keep you up at night.
8fit workouts are also quick, so you can fit one in early in the morning before you start your day, at lunch time or even early in the evening. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym. Instead, do your 8fit workout at 6pm. Have dinner at 7pm and be in bed by 10pm. Giving yourself 2-3 hours after your workout for your body to settle down is perfect for getting optimum sleep.
You don’t need us to tell you how essential sleep is. Your body will tell you when you are sleep deprived and when you are getting enough shut-eye. Prioritize sleep, aiming for 7-9 hours a night, and you will feel better, stronger and see your fitness goals achieved more quickly.