Is Sleep Really as Important as Diet and Exercise?

Author: Amanda Lasater, Mattress Advisor

Around 30% of adults are getting less than six hours of sleep per night on average. This may not sound as shocking as it really is, but it is necessary to recognize just how crucial sleep is when you are trying to lose weight or even just maintain a healthy one.

Even if you are eating all the right meals and working hard at the gym – if you’re skimping out on sleep, you’re probably not seeing the results that you were hoping for. Without enough sleep in your routine, the progress in your weight-loss or weight-maintenance journey may become impeded, especially as you experience unwelcomed food cravings, and a lack of energy while working out.

Why Sleep is So Important

Exercising in general requires attention and concentration, two functions that are seriously impaired when we don’t get enough sleep. As we slumber, our body switches to a parasympathetic state, also known as the rest and digest stage. This is the time when the body releases various hormones and beneficial acids that help repair tissue damage and regulate bodily processes, like appetite, that are essential for a healthy life.

If you’re a regular at the gym, it’s likely you need more sleep than someone who is less active, as your body uses sleep time to restore itself from the additional stresses and effort exerted by exercise. One study found that participants had more sleep for as many as four days after competing in a marathon in comparison to before their race.

The Benefits of Sleep Compared to Diet

Sleep has a huge impact on our appetite. When we’re deficient in quality or quantity of sleep we tend to feel hungrier and crave sweet snacks. Two hormones, ghrelin and leptin, are responsible for this and both are regulated by the amount and quality of sleep we get. When we’re not getting enough sleep, our bodies increase ghrelin production. Ghrelin is responsible for communicating pangs of hunger to our brains. Conversely, leptin production is decreased and its leptin that let’s our brain know we’re full.

One study found that people who were lacking in sleep had 14.9% higher ghrelin levels and 15.5% lower leptin levels as a result.

The Benefit of Sleep Compared to Exercise

Sleep and exercise are like twins – one is lost without the other and each ends up providing less benefit for us on their own. Exercising when you haven’t had enough rest results in a less progress and probably a shorter workout – if you workout at all. You’ll also feel fatigued throughout the exercise and lack motivation to really give it your all.

Chronic lack of sleep can result in a 30 – 40% reduction in glucose metabolism which radically reduces the amount of time it takes to reach exhaustion. So, take the advice of Olympic triathlete, Jarod Shoemaker and make sleep one half of your training.

Ensuring you do get enough sleep when you regularly exercise is really a matter of prioritizing it and ensuring you have a comfortable place to rest your head during those hours of slumber. Cut out excessive light before bedtime to help your body feel the tiredness that it needs to get a good night’s rest and wake up feeling refreshed. It is also a great practice to create a “wind-down” routine to get your head in the right space, reducing over stimulation of the brain and avoid a wandering mind when you should be sleeping.

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