5 Ways Sleeping Enough Helps Keep You Fit
Control Your Cravings
Unless you’re the proud owner of infallible willpower (what’s your secret?), turning down an extra piece of cake is much harder on insufficient sleep. Hunger is regulated by two hormones called leptin and ghrelin. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but simply put: less leptin equals more hunger, and more ghrelin equals more hunger. Sleep deprivation suppresses leptin and stimulates ghrelin, making you that much hungrier, even if you’ve eaten enough. Moreover, sleep deprivation impairs the part of your brain that controls complex decision-making, leaving you without the discipline you need to stick to a healthy eating plan.
Ensures Proper Muscle Recovery
Think you’re making serious gains at the gym? Unless you’re getting enough rest, think again. Neglecting your sleep—which for most adults, means sleeping less than seven to nine hours per night—seriously hampers your body’s ability to build muscle. That’s because growth hormone production, which facilitates muscle building and recovery, drops in step with rising sleep debt.
Regulates Your Hormones
In addition to the hunger-controlling hormones mentioned above, sleep deprivation spikes your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone associated with fat gain. Cortisol in measured quantities is essential for proper functioning, since it helps our bodies respond to stress, but an overabundance leads to numerous problems including increased fat storage. Not sleeping enough also drops your body’s sensitivity to insulin, which increases fat storage as well—this time in dangerous places like your liver.
Your general energy consumption is lowered during sleep, giving your body the time it needs to grow, heal, and repair damaged tissues. In other words, sleep is when healing happens. It’s when damaged soft tissues heal and scar tissue, the dense fibre your body creates to repair injuries, develops. That said, sleeping on a poorly fitted mattress is counterproductive for the purpose of healing, since bad spinal alignment can create injuries over time.
Keeps Your Heart Healthy
Large-scale studies show that regardless of other factors we typically associate with heart health—weight, age, smoking and exercise habits—sleep deprivation drastically spikes your risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s not entirely clear why this is the case, but researchers suspect that it has something to do with increased inflammation, as well as poor blood pressure and glucose regulation.
Long story short, eating right and exercising are not substitutes for getting enough sleep. Diet, exercise, and sleep are three pillars of good health, and you need all three to achieve your fitness goals!