Wanna Be Fit and Beautiful? Go to bed.
Hitting the gym 5 times a week, fueling with real food, no muscle gains or fat loss? But they told you you’ll have amazing results if you only stick to your nutrition plan? Food is not always enough for maintaining a good health, no matter how nourishing it is. If your diet and training routine is on check, but you cannot step up your fitness game, then you should consider the lack of sleep as the missing part of your target puzzle.
You can blame the lack of sleep for autoimmune diseases, internal inflammatory processes, hormonal imbalances, cardiovascular problems, food addictions, irritability and weight gain.
You eat macronutrient balanced meals, you take enough vitamins and minerals and never skip even one rep of your workout, so is it really possible that the sleepless nights might be the main cause of your failures on the way to health?
What's All This Fuss About Sleep?
People will never stop throwing away a bunch of money on elite coaches, nutritionists, and supplement manufacturers just to ensure that they have the perfect plan for accomplishing their fitness results.
Sleep is crucial for our well-being, it’s a fundamental human requirement. In fact, we cannot survive if we don’t sleep. If you research a bit, you’ll find out that the longest the scientifically documented record going without sleep not using any stimulants is 264.4 hours (11 days 25 minutes).
You can go much longer without food and you can live up to 80 years with poor diet. C’mon, my great-grandmother used to love and eat all kind of sugar, gluten, salty and fat foods and lived until the age of 98.
Okey, let’s say you actually go to sleep at about 10 or 11 pm and get at least 7 hours of sleep. But how do you sleep – deep or shallow? How do you feel in the morning, do you have difficulties getting off bed, do you need 2-3 cups of coffee until noon? Do you feel hungry all day long? Are you focused at work? If you answered at least one of these question with “yes”, you should think about improving your sleep.
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep per night. If you suffer an autoimmune disease, you may have to add 2 – 3 extra hours per night, so your body can fight the problem.
What does happen to your body composition and eating habits if you don’t sleep good enough? Are you spending your nights in front of the TV, computer, or you’re scrolling in the bed? Do you feel bloated, tired, with less desire to face the upcoming day and with absolutely no appetite for healthy recipes?
Don’t confuse the quality sleep with the excess of sleep! You know that anything that is too much isn’t good. It’s true a good night sleep is the best you can undertake to refresh your body. But according to some researches oversleeping could make you prone to health issues like diabetes, heart disease, depression.
Your circadian rhythm makes you feel energized and sleepy around the same time every day. Your hypothalamus, as well as the lightness and darkness, affect your circadian rhythm, hence your sleep. Your brain usually sends the signals to your body that its time to go to bed, therefore we tend to stick to the daytime and nighttime.
The “clock” built into our brain detects whether we’re exposed to light or darkness and affects our circadian rhythm.
Your circadian rhythm gets disrupted when you stay up late, watch TV or just any blue light screen (PC, cell phone, tablets, smart watches) or when you try to save time by waking up earlier. This can result in less productivity at the office and lack of focus as a whole.
Many hormones in the human body have regular cycles, therefore developing a consistent sleep routine can only be beneficial for you. Plus, exposing yourself to blue light reduces the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep and wakefulness, thus making it difficult to fall asleep even when you’re tired.
You would tell me you can’t just shut of your thoughts and that you’re overthinker and so on. Tell me, though, have you tried to do something about it or you still scroll on Facebook, Twitter or Youtube till 1 am? Have you turned the lights off, did you have light and early dinner, have you prepared for relaxing?
Own the choice of not doing the necessary for getting good night sleep. You watch your favourite shows online or on TV, then chat with friends an hour or two more, then browse the social media for last time and try to fall asleep. Well, your body doesn’t work this way.
Insomnia Makes You Fat
There is a linear correlation between sleep, endocrine system and body composition. You’re more likely to reach for doughnuts or pizza.
According to part of the researchers the lack of sleep can affect the hormonal responses and to influence your appetite and metabolism. Whereas other part defends the thesis that probably obesity and high body fat percentages are the reason for poor sleep.
Especially in the evenings, our bodies usually produce less growth hormone and thyroid stimulating hormone and more cortisol which can affect the body fat levels. Except these hormonal responses, the habitual sleep deprivation affects our leptin and insulin levels, and it lowers the body’s glucose tolerance. That’s not all, my dear!
Simply put, your leptin lowers and ghrelin raises (the appetite hormones) and you develop an unmanageable desire for fat, salty or sweet processed foods. Even if you have the strongest will, it becomes more difficult not to eat if your day have started at 6 – 7 am and you hug your pillow at 1-2 am. Yet, this is quite a wide time frame for eating… Plus, you don’t want to become insulin resistant and not to tolerate glucose as you’re supposed to.
By not sleeping enough you also step up the risk of cardiovascular diseases, not to mention the swinging moods, lack of focus and the negative effect on memory.
A 100% Sleep Cycle consists of 5 stages. The first two are characterized by light sleep opposed to the second two stages, when the sleep is deep and your body happens to produce growth hormone. If you wander when you dream, the answer is stage five, also known as rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep.
What you perhaps still don’t know is that this 5-stage cycle repeats every 90 minutes, and this should happen a couple of times per night in order to secrete growth hormone and to regenerate physical and mental health.
If you don’t sleep enough regularly, you won’t be able to recover from the stress in your life, from your workouts and won’ t build muscle. Your training sessions will feel harder despite the fact you’re doing the same program, which will make you feel less eager to rest.
You Can't Skip The Sleep Debt
The more you deprive your body of sleep, the worse the consequences. The only way to pay your sleep debt, is to catch up the sleeping hours you have missed. All you have to do, is to have a good night sleep a couple of consecutive nights.
The problem is that this would be a challenging task if you’re stress levels are up. Stress hormone cortisol has a key role in sleep quality. If there are high concentrations of it, don’t expect to feel refreshed in the morning.
How To Fix Your Sleep
Your sleep should come first regardless of your daily obligations, desires, fitness goals, etc. No sleep, no nothing. No health, no fat loss, no smile, no happiness. At least, this is what we derive from the majority of research. Actually, what you get is fat and hunger. I prefer the ripped abs. And if you’re like me, develop a sleeping routine:
- Limit your caffeine intake until early noon. For some people the time frame for drinking coffee is limited even till 10 a.m.
- Have a dinner 2-3 hours prior to sleep. Digestion process can impact your sleep in a negative way. Not to mention how unhealthy it is for your esophagus to lay down when you’re full or overfed.
- Limit your water intake after 7-8 pm. Try to drink less water in the evening to prevent early waking up or disruption of the night sleep due to urge to urinate.
- Prepare yourself for sleeping an hour earlier: Make your own pre-bed routine. Stop using any devices (remember blue light turns you into a zombie) and start to mute the light in your apartment. You can use Himalayan salt lamp instead of your room light. If you can leave your cell phone and alarm outside the room, or at least don’t put it next to your pillow.
- Limit the light and noise in the bedroom. Even if you have to, buy very thick and dark curtains. Ensure you sleep in full darkness.
- Don’t turn on the heating at night. The temperature in your room should be a bit cool. At first you may not like it, but you’ll feel much better in the morning. Something between 18-23 degrees celsius is perfect.
- Try to go to bed early and at about the same time. Get advantage of the hours between 10 pm and 12 pm, because it’s proven that the night sleep in this period is most regenerative. Once you start going to bed before midnight, you’ll begin to feel more refreshed and energized the next day, but the best part is that you’ll be more productive. Who doesn’t want to get more things done in a less time?
- Drink your minerals in the evening. Take magnesium before going to bed.
We all are busy and have our excuses, I know. You cannot cancel your doctor's appointment or business meeting, you have to walk the dog and to prepare your kids for school, so if something else pops up, you go to bad later or wake up earlier the next day. Yet, what is the coffee found for?
But that’s not the right way. Some (or even many) of you will try to convince me they live a perfect life with just 4 -5 hours of sleep per night and that they feel super determined to accomplish everything they’ve planned to.
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