Getting a good, restful, and sound sleep is just as important as any workout you do when trying to lose weight and become healthy. To get the best results from any workout, you also need time for your body to recover. During sleep, your pituitary glands produce more growth hormones than when you are awake. The main function of growth hormones is to stimulate cell reproduction, growth, and regeneration. This is significantly more important when you are living an active lifestyle, or are exercising, because the growth hormones help in the aid of muscle growth and repair. Consequently, stronger and bigger muscles will mean a faster metabolism, and we can always use a faster metabolism when we’re trying to lose weight.
Besides growth hormones, your body also balances two other important hormones that affect weight loss while you sleep. These hormones are called Leptin and Ghrelin, and they play a pivotal role in stimulating or suppressing your appetite when you are awake. Leptin is produced by your body’s fat cells and is responsible for curbing your appetite. Ghrelin is produced by your stomach and is responsible for stimulating your appetite. When you are sleep-deprived, your body produces less Leptin and more Ghrelin, resulting in an increase in appetite. This hormonal imbalance can suggest why you may sometimes have the urge to want to eat before going to sleep, especially when it’s past your usual bedtime. When your body gets enough sleep, more Leptin is produced to counter-balance Ghrelin production. This results in feeling more satiated throughout the day.
Getting enough sleep also lowers your cortisol levels in your blood. Cortisol functions by breaking down protein in your body and converting it into glucose. When you have too much glucose in your body, usually obtained through eating carbohydrates and foods with sugar, the glucose will get stored as fat. Moreover, cortisol affects your body’s ability to build muscle mass, which consequently has an affect your body’s metabolism. If you’re trying to lose weight, you want to make sure the cortisol levels in your blood are low by getting enough sleep.
According to the National Institute of Health, the average American adult gets seven hours of sleep per night. However, a study published in the Journal of Annals of Internal Medicine states that sleeping less than 8 and a half hours a night may hamper your body’s ability to lose fat. Some common symptoms of sleep deprivation are: relying on an alarm clock to wake up each morning, feel sleepy during low-energy activities such as meetings, or feeling the need to take naps or sleep in. Besides weight gain, poor sleep quality has also been linked to chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Here are a few basic tips to help you get a better sleep (Pete Cerqua, The High Intensity Fitness Revolution):
1. Reduce Caffeine Intake – Try cutting down to only one cup of caffeine a day (whether it’s a sugarless energy drink, coffee, or tea) and avoid consuming any caffeine past noon.
2. Don’t Eat Chocolate at Night – Though dark chocolate (in moderation) is a healthy snack, chocolate contains caffeine in it and should be especially avoided when it’s nearing bedtime.
3. Avoid an “Energy Boost” After 8:00 P.M. – Sugar or sugary foods will provide your body with an energy boost, which can sometimes by helpful before a workout. However, they should be avoided, especially before bed.
4. Abstain From Mental and Physical Stimulation – When you are getting ready for bed, make sure you close all electronics (including television, computer, laptop, iPad, phones, kindle, etc.). Electronics provide a mental stimulation that keep you engaged and awake. Regular books are usually an exception because they are slower-paced and easier to nod off to.
5. Physical Stimulation – For most individuals, working out and exercise usually wakes their bodies up because when you are working out, your heart rate is increasing. If you have trouble sleeping, try scheduling your exercises in the morning or early in the day rather than at night. This may also include any sexual activities.
6. Eat Foods High in Magnesium – Foods high in magnesium, such as almonds, legumes, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and dark leafy green vegetables, have been known to be a natural remedy for insomnia by helping to relax your brain and helping you fall asleep faster.
7. Take a Pill – Try something all natural, like L-Tryptophan or 5-HTP. These are basic, simple, and cost-effective.
1. Cerqua, Pete. High Intensity Fitness Revolution for Women: A Fast and Easy Workout with Amazing Results. New York: Skyhorse, 2013. Print.
2. Greenwood, Melanie. “Does Sleep Help With Weight Loss?” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG, Sept.-Oct. 2010. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.