All is well as I am now at Week 3/4 of Phase 3 – LEAN MUSCLE GROWTH of Be Fit Hub’s “Power Foods Diet.” My posts thus far have covered nutrition, functional training, myofascial release and motivation in great depth. This week I reflected with my Personal Trainer and Business Partner George on sleep and how lack of sleep sabotages our optimum cellular and fitness health. As you all know both of us live and breathe this industry full-time and in doing so have to book our regular sleep pattern in – it is crucial to our survival and yours!!! So much happens internally as we essentially “restore and renew” every cell in our body and mind whilst sleeping.
You cannot be healthy without adequate sleep!!! Period!!!
Insomnia has reached epidemic proportions. Unfortunately, these problems are getting worse, not better. In the US, the number of adults aged 20 to 44 using sleeping pills doubled from 2000 to 2004, and the number of kids ages 1-19 who take prescription sleep remedies jumped 85% during the same period. Prescriptions for sleeping pills topped 56 million in 2008 – up 54% from 2004 – with over $5 billion in sales in 2010.
Not surprising really… since we are in a culture that values productivity and activity above all else, and is almost scornful of rest and relaxation. “Resting” for many people means watching TV, browsing the internet or engaging with some other kind of electronic device that is anything but restful for the brain and the body. We have not only forgotten the value of rest, we have forgotten how to do it!
Honestly, I can say that writing this post has been RAW for me as sleep has been the hardest discipline for me to master. I am the overachiever who is compelled to learn and drive myself to jam-pack as much as I can into my day and I have been very successful in doing so… numbing out my body’s message “to retire for the night and sleep” for many years in pursuit of my studies, business and personal ventures… And yes, I can say I have in the presence of friends, family, peers and clients many stories to share thus far in my life’s journey where my body has been trashed hormonally from lack of sleep, muscles torn to a shred as I pushed my teaching and training schedule to the limit and my groovy car parked under a ute rather than behind it LOL… Thankfully, the lightbulb moment for this lesson has arrived! I am not perfect… I still go to bed late as I finish work at the studio 10:30pm 5 nights of the week… Although now I have a meal of protein and greens (prepared earlier) in the fridge ready to be warmed for my belly and soul; a warm shower to detox my body and mind; then 7 to 9 hours of sleep at least 6 nights of the week. Like I say “Consistent baby steps!”
Frequent exercise and a healthy diet are key elements in most weight loss and lean muscle gain programs. However, making sure that you get enough sleep is often overlooked. Recent research has shown that sleep plays an important role in weight management. People who sleep enough have lower BMI indexes than people who don’t. This data also suggests that sleep deprivation can cause weight gain.
So the bottom line is lose fat and get the physique you desire by getting more sleep. Not only does lack of sleep make you inclined to eat more poor-quality, high-energy food product, new research shows lack of sleep can actually impede fat loss.
A recent study from Canada compared the effect of sleep length and quality on fat loss in middle-aged, overweight men and women. The participants were on a four-month calorie-restricted diet that decreased energy intake by about 600 calories a day. Using self-reported sleep quality and sleep duration data, researchers found that the participants who had the longest sleep duration—over 7 hours a night—lost the most weight, regardless of initial body composition, age, sex, cellular health and other factors.
For every one hour increase in sleep was associated with a 0.7 kg loss in fat mass. Those who slept better also were on the higher end of the weight loss scale.
Researchers don’t know exactly why sleep quantity and quality is associated with greater weight loss. They didn’t find any effect of sleep quantity or quality on resting energy expenditure. Rather, it’s probable that sleep quantity and quality affects weight loss because we know that when people are tired, hormones can become imbalanced. Even a small alteration in hormone balance can significantly affect weight loss and muscle building efforts.
Fortunately for us, the body hasn’t forgotten the importance of sleep. It’s absolutely essential for basic maintenance and repair of the neurological, endocrine, immune, musculoskeletal and digestive systems. The hormone melatonin naturally increases after sundown and during the night in a normal circadian rhythm, which increases immune cytokine function and helps protect us against infection. Lightbulb moment – this is why you’re so likely to get a cold or flu after not sleeping well for a few nights.
In fact, sleep is so important to our overall health that total sleep deprivation has been proven to be fatal – even lab rats denied the chance to rest die within two to three weeks.
The benefits of a full night’s sleep are:
- enhances memory and mental clarity
- improves athletic performance
- boosts mood and overall energy
- improves immune function
- increases stress tolerance
Now let’s take a look at some of the contributing factors that link sleep with weight loss:
*Leptin and Ghrelin
Sleep affects the levels of several hormones in your body. Two hormones that play an important role in stimulating and suppressing your appetite are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is produced by your body’s fat cells and is responsible for suppressing hunger. Ghrelin is released by your stomach, and stimulates your appetite. Lack of sleep lowers the levels of leptin in your blood and heightens the levels of ghrelin, which results in an increase of appetite. Great news – the reverse is also true: getting enough sleep decreases hunger and will therefore help you lose weight.
During sleep, your pituitary gland secretes more growth hormones than during your waking hours. Growth hormones stimulate cell repair, regeneration, reproduction and growth. These hormones are also assist you in building muscles. This is why higher levels of growth hormones means a heightened metabolism. With a higher metabolism, you burn energy much faster which leads to easier weight loss.
Getting eight hours of sleep at night helps you lower the cortisol levels in your blood, while lack of sleep raises your cortisol levels. Higher levels of cortisol lead to a lower metabolism.
This is important to understand:
– Breaking protein down into glucose is stimulated by cortisol.
– So if you have too much glucose in your body, it will get stored as fat.
– More annoying is cortisol interferes with your body’s ability to build muscle mass. If you are trying to lose weight, you want to make sure that you have low cortisol levels in your blood. Getting enough sleep helps you do just that.
*Rest and Recovery
Exercising regularly is a great way to improve your fitness and shed some kilos. When you exercise, you tire your body and actually inflict small injuries to your muscles such as tears that are essential to build muscle strength and tone. To improve your performance, you have to allow your body time to heal. During sleep, your body has time to heal and recuperates the quickest. When you do not sleep enough, you will stay fatigued mentally and physically and your performance level will drop. Sleeping enough will allow your body to rest, recover and grow stronger and your mind to be focussed.
So in a nutshell – sleep is a crucial factor in losing weight… Sleep suppresses your appetite and raises your metabolism, while allowing your body to rest and recover. So aside from leading an active lifestyle and maintaining a balanced diet, you should also make sure that you get your full 8 hours of shuteye every night.
Tips to naturally get a good night’s sleep:
*Reduce your exposure to artificial light
Artificial light disrupts our circadian rhythm and throws off our sleep. Just a single ‘pulse’ of artificial light at night disrupts the circadian mode of cell division, which can not only impact our sleep, but also increase our risk of cancer.
Follow these tips to avoid light exposure:
- Don’t use a computer for 2 hours before going to bed. No staying up late on Facebook and Twitter!
- Use blackout shades to make your bedroom pitch black.
- Cover your digital alarm clock or get an analog clock.
- Turn off all digital devices that glow or give off any type of light.
- If you can’t do these things for some reason, use a sleep mask.
*Don’t be too full – or too hungry
Some people sleep better after eating a light dinner. This is especially true for those with digestive issues. Others with a tendency toward hypoglycemia – do better with a snack before bed (and possibly even during the night).
*Go to bed earlier
You’ve all heard the saying “an hour before midnight is worth two hours after”. It turns out there is some truth to that. When you fall asleep, you go through a 90-minute cycle of non-REM sleep followed by REM sleep. Lightbulb moment: The ratio of non-REM to REM sleep within those 30 minute cycles changes across the night. In the early part of the night (11pm – 3am), the majority of those cycles are composed of deep non-REM sleep (stages 3 and 4) and very little REM sleep. In the second half of the night (i.e. 3am – 7am) this balance changes, and the 90-minute cycles are comprised of more REM sleep (the stage associated with dreaming) as well as a lighter form of non-REM sleep (stage 2).
Only in the deep stage 3 and 4 sleep is where our body regenerates and repairs tissue and engages in other restorative processes. If we don’t get enough deep sleep, we can’t rejuvenate and heal to our fullest potential.
*So you say “you’re a night owl”???
There is no such truth to being a “natural” night owl where you prefer to stay up late and sleep in. For millions of years of human evolution sleep patterns remained in sync with the daily variation in light exposure as we rose with the sun, and went to bed soon after sundown. This is what our bodies and minds are adapted for.
In almost all cases, having a lot of energy late into the night is a sign of a disrupted circadian rhythm. Normally, cortisol should be high in the morning and taper off throughout the day and into the evening. Cortisol gives us the energy we need to wake up in the morning, and allows us to start winding down after dark so we’re ready to sleep. In people who’ve been exposed to significant chronic stress, this rhythm goes haywire. They suffer from low cortisol in the morning which makes it very hard for them to get going and high cortisol at night, which gives them that late second wind. So while drinking several cups of coffee in the morning mitigates the morning fatigue to some degree, it also perpetuates the pattern by revving them up in the afternoon and evening… is this you?
Thus these so-called “night owls” have cortisol and melatonin rhythm dysregulation. Good news is this may be reversed and does take a while to adjust their lifestyle, and eventually these “night owls” start feeling tired at the end of the day – this is a good thing!!!
*When good sleep hygiene isn’t enough supplementation may help
In general, “magnesium” is a good choice as it is considered the “anti-stress” mineral and is a natural tranquiliser as it improves sleep by decreasing the release of cortisol. Most people are deficient in magnesium and it is not toxic at daily doses up to 800 mg. It’s also cheap and easy to find. I prefer the chelated forms of magnesium like glycinate and malate, but others which is mixed in warm water before bed are fine also.
Reality check: most of us run around like chickens with their heads cut off all day, multi-tasking into the multiple layers of our lives and then wonder why we can’t fall right asleep as soon as our head hits the pillow. If our nervous system has been in overdrive for 16 or more hours, it’s unrealistic to assume that it can switch into low gear in a matter of minutes simply because we want it to. Of course this is why sleeping pills are growing in popularity each year as we opt for the quick fix to lessen our “To Do” list.
KNOW your body is not a machine! KNOW your body and mind are one and are the product of healthy cells that need REAL FOOD, FUNCTIONAL TRAINING and REST – “SLEEP”!