Sleep; we love it, but do we get enough of it?
Guidelines state that we should be getting between 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night. With the optimal amount being around 8 hours. A study of 2000 brits found that we are averaging just 6.8 hours a night. That missed hour of sleep can have a host of negative effects on your body when repeated month after month.
According to one study, it is a leading cause of depression and anxiety. But let’s focus on its detrimental effects in relation to fat loss.
Lack of sleep sets the brain up for a day of bad decisions. It reduces the activity of the frontal lobe, the home of impulse control and decision making.
Ever wondered why you crave junk food after a poor nights sleep? The reward centre within your brain is revved up, meaning that slice of cake becomes even more appetising than normal!
A study by the Amercian Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that sleep deprivation leads to increased meal portions, late night snacking, and high carb, low nutrient food choices.
Lack of sleep affects your hunger and fullness hormones: Ghrelin and Leptin. Grehlin signals your brain to eat. Its production is increased when you’re sleep deprived. Leptin, on the other hand, lets your brain know its full. Its production plummets after a poor nights sleep (talk about a double whammy).
Insulin sensitivity is also reduced. This hormone is essential for converting sugars, starches and other foods into energy. A study by researchers in Chicago found that just four nights of suboptimal sleep can lead to a 30% decrease in insulin sensitivity. The chances of your body storing energy as fat increases in this scenario.
The cherry on top of this hormonal car crash of a cake; Cortisol spikes in this scenario too. This stress hormone tells your body to conserve energy, meaning fat oxidation is reduced. In Laymen’s terms, “your body holds on to fat!”
Now you have an understanding of just how important sleep is to fat loss, let’s take a look at how you can improve it to get your body back to its fat burning best:
Lighting -Try and avoid overhead lighting an hour before bed as this tells our bodies that it’s still daytime. Low lit side lamps are ok, as they appeal to our evolutionary genetics. Low lights replicate a low lit fire, resulting in an environment similar to our hunter/gatherer ancestor’s evenings.
Technology – Avoiding technology an hour before bed will help you unwind. The bright light from screens keeps the body in day mode. If you must have your phone on at night then I suggest turning it on to ‘blue light’ mode.
The information that is thrown at us in the form of other people’s lives on Facebook, and news from around the world, all send the brain into overdrive. Not what you need when trying to nod off.
Food & Drink – Avoiding caffeine, sugar, and alcohol before sleep will help – these things excite your brain and caffeine can stay in your system for 5-6 hours after consumption. Not ideal.
Room Temperature – Although the ideal room temperature varies slightly from person to person, the recommended temperature is between 16-19 degrees Celsius.
Others – Earplugs and eye masks are an essential part of my bedtime routine. I have actually had earplugs moulded specifically to my ears (nerdy I know).
As for eye masks, even the smallest amount of light can make going to sleep for me a struggle. Especially in summer when the sun comes up early, leading to you waking up at some ungodly hour!
I hope that by now you can appreciate the importance of sleep. Not just to optimise fat loss, but for general health as well.
A study by the Royal Society of Health found that sleep was second only to avoiding smoking in terms of its benefits to human health. That’s in front of exercise and eating your greens!
Remember, quality sleep is gained from a holistic approach. Realise that what you eat, inactivity and pressure at work will all dictate your stress levels. The higher your stress levels are, the harder it is for you to get quality sleep.
Although your diet is the primary dictator of fat loss, you can now appreciate the damaging effects chronic sleep deprivation can have on your metabolism.
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Now go get an early night!
All the love,
Sam Jones Fitness