Lack of Sleep
In this current working generation, we all have a busy schedule. Where even fitting in a workout, seems difficult. We all hear or think at some point that the two main components to get healthier/fitter is diet and working out. Most fitness “gurus” will basically say to get healthy you just have to “eat less and move more”. The difference between these fitness “gurus” (aka google learner) and a fitness professional, Is that qualified professionals are able to effectively evaluate all the factors that could affect a client’s fitness and health journey.
Looking deeper into fitness it can be said that one of the most over looked factors is sleep. Unfortunately as the world gets busier, we are also losing our sleep. Recent statistics suggest that 37% of 20-39 years old and 40% of 40-59 year olds are sleep deprived.
Insufficient sleep can have an impact on your diet as well and your muscle growth. It isn’t just a coincidence that as the rise of sleep deprivation is identical to the rise of obesity. There seems to be a correlation.
Sleep and fat loss
There is recent study that tested 2 groups on the same diet but different sleep periods.
It was found that the group with a reduced sleep time (< 7 hours) the amount of fat they lost ,due to the diet, was halved compared to the group with sufficient sleep. Furthermore the group with reduced sleep period experienced more hunger, lack of energy to exercise and felt less satisfied after meals.
Sleep and fat cells
With insufficient sleep, the body’s ability to utilise insulin becomes affected. In fact studies, it shows that it decreased insulin sensitivity up to 30% as well as increasing insulin resistance.
In a healthy individual with an ideal insulin sensitivity, lipids and fatty acids are removed from the blood stream by fat cells, however insulin resistant individuals tend to have more of a build-up of lipids (Fat) and glucose in their blood stream, which causes more insulin to be produced. This excessive amount of fat and glucose can lead to many complications, such diabetes and obesity.
Cravings and metabolism
Hunger is more than a will power related problem. What’s inside and how much is inside our stomachs dictates if we are either hungry or full. Well to a degree it is, there are actually two hormones that play a part. This is leptin and ghrelin. Our adipose (Fat) cells create leptin. More leptin produced, the more hungry we feel and the less that is produced, the more we feel hungry or feel like our stomachs are empty.
Ghrelin is produced cells in the gastrointestinal tract, this hormone is what stimulates hunger as well as decreasing your metabolism and increasing fat storage.
From this we know we need to have a balance of leptin and ghrelin, however insufficient sleep has an influence on the production of these hormones. In fact research shows that sleeping less than 6 hours decreases leptin production whilst increasing ghrelin production.
Cortisol is a hormone which is linked to fat gain. Lack of sleep causes cortisol levels to rise. To make matters worse, lack of sleep has been shown to affect decision making, hence making people justify bad diet habits, for example saying stuff like, I can eat some junk today and start my diet again tomorrow, or one slice of cake won’t hurt. This leads to unnecessary eating.
Now let’s talk about how lack of sleep can affect your workout as well as your highly desired gains.
Energy and motivation
As we all know lack of sleep can make us feel quite moody and lazy. This puts us in a mindset where even the thought of working out makes us feels tired. Especially with a busy schedule our motivation to work out is decreased. The best method to tackle this issue, is to simply get better sleep, or shorten your workouts to a set time. So you at least feel beforehand that it’s doable.
Effects on Muscle growth and recovery
After a workout, your body starts to repairs the microscopic tears in the muscles. When repaired it actually creates more muscle mass. Two factors determine how efficient the repair and building process is. These two are nutrition and sleep. During sleep your body goes through a high anabolic state, which basically means the body is being repaired and revitalised at a more efficient state. Studies have found that lack of sleep could inhibit protein synthesis, which will affect the body’s ability to repair. During sleep there is an increase in human growth hormones, melatonin and testosterone. All of these play a role in regeneration and reproduction of cells. Research shows how lack of sleep can result is decreased testosterone and increase of cortisol, additionally its shown that this spike in cortisol can actually remain elevated up until the following evening.
The decrease in protein synthesis and excessive cortisol production, increases the risk of both acute and chronic injuries.
Many other factors are affected such as slower reaction time, poorer judgement as well as reduced cognitive function. Cognitive functions such as attention span, memory etc.
As crazy as it sounds, the “American academy of sleep medicine” states that getting less than 7 hours of sleep can result in a variety of health problems such as high blood pressure (hyper tension), increase weight gain, diabetes type 2 as well as a higher motility rate.
How much is enough
Well now the main question at this point is how much is enough?
Different literature will state different amounts, however on average what is recommended is 7-10 hours per night. Especially for those who work out at least twice a week. However try not to exceed more than 10 hours as it will have an impact of the sleep cycle.
These are the new recommendation for each age category
• 6-13 years old: roughly 9 – 11 hours
• 14-17 years old: 8-10 hours
• 18-25 years old: 7-9 hours
• 26-64 years old: 7-9 hours
• 65+ years old: 7-8 hours
What can be done
The final question at this point must be “what can be done?”.
First thing to understand, is to put your sleep before your workouts. Having enough sleep and making that your priority is more important than trying to fit in a work out. This will help normalise your hormones as oppose to putting your body in a more stressful state.
Quicks tips for a better sleep
• Avoid naps, this will affect your sleep cycle. If you do feel sluggish throughout the day, wash your face take a walk. Anything but napping.
• Lavender.. yes anything with lavender essence, this can be in a form of a candle or a mist spray. Or even lavender soap. lavender actually helps put you I a more relaxed state.
• Take a warm bath. This helps relax the muscles and reduces tension.
• Fresh air. Keep your windows open during the day to allow fresh air in the room. This will help with eliminating any carbon monoxide.
• Improve your sleeping environment. What helps me is changing the side of the bed I sleep on or even the position of my bed.
• From 6pm onwards aim to make the remaining part of your day less intense and stressful.
• Don’t oversleep! This will affect your sleeping schedule.
• Keep to the same sleeping schedule. This will help your body fall to sleep a lot quicker as it is used to a pattern.
• To help with improved recovery, eat or drink some protein before bed. (btw eating before bed doesn’t make you fat)
• Avoid alcohol and caffeine at night.
• No sleeping pills. Look at the research it does more bad than good in the long run.
• THE FINAL TIP: Avoid screens to up to at least 1-2 hours before bed. This may be hard, but reading a booking to enhance your knowledge would be beneficial.
Ok let’s be real, in this current generation. Screens are everywhere, in fact it’s almost a habit for everyone to be looking at their screens majority of the day, especially before we sleep. Yes avoiding any mobile or television screens helps. It really does. but the problem is getting used at a habit where we don’t use it before we sleep. So my suggestion is to gradually cut down on the time we are on the phone, just enough that it suits every individual. Another tip is downloading “blue screen filter” apps. This helps with reducing the blue in the phone’s screen. This will put less strain in your eyes and will make it easier to sleep compared to usual.
written by Abdul