Sleep is one of the most important under-estimated aspects of living a healthy lifestyle. After all, we spend more than 30% of our lives sleeping, so why wouldn't it be? Sleep impacts of emotional well-bring, cognitive function, daily performance and physical health. You can be killing it in the gym and eating a whole healthy diet, but if you're not catching those Zzzs at night, it could be the major limitation you need to overcome to make sure you reach your goals. This includes:
So how does sleep limit your goals exactly? Well it differs depending on what your goal is. So let's break it down:
If your goal is fat loss
As we explain in our 'How To Get Fit: Fat Loss Edition' series, research has found that if you're getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep a night, it can reduce and even undo, the benefits of a healthy diet. That's because not getting enough sleep can alter circulating levels of leptin (the hormone that helps regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger) and ghrelin (the hunger hormone which regulates appetite and plays a role in regulating and distribution rate and use rate of energy). Meaning lack of sleep can increase appetite, enhance sensitivity to food stimuli, and reduce feeling of fullness after eating. All of this in addition to making you straight up sleepy which reduces your energy/willingness to exercise.
All of these things combined can reduce your ability to lose fat by 55% compared to your well-rested friends following the exact same routine. In fact, after 4 nights without enough sleep, your body's ability to produce insulin and insulin sensitivity decreases by more than 30% which will increase fat storage.
If your goal is weight gain
Sleep doesn't just get in the way for those looking to lose fat. If you're trying to build muscle and increase size, lack of sleep can be a limitation for you too. Sleep is when your body produces growth hormone to repair the muscles you've worked out that day. So no sleep means no growth hormone for repairs which means sore muscles and no growth. By not getting enough sleep, your body will also produce excess cortisol which slows down the production of growth hormone even more. So it's not just about how much weight you life in the gym, but how many hours of sleep you get each night too.
But don't worry, there's a bright side! Many reviews and meta-analysis show that these negative relationships between limiting sleep and achieving our goals can be reversed once healthy sleep patterns are achieved. So if sleep may be limiting your ability to lose fat or gain muscle, by adopting a healthy sleep schedule you can be well on your way to reaching your goals. Here are some tips we recommend to start on that path.
Improve your sleep patterns