Chances are if you’re not training to compete the reasons why you exercise are to improve your body composition and reap the health benefits of being strong and fit. While it’s important to follow a training programme or at least move with a certain consistency, it’s also essential to bear in mind that sometimes it can be impossible to reach your goals without taking a more holistic look at health.

Nutrition plays a key role in supporting our physical activity, but we wouldn’t be able to exercise to the best of our abilities without taking time to sleep and recover. We focus so much on being productive, on working hard to achieve more, that we forget how fatigue is going to make us tired and less acute with time. We need to look after ourselves so that we can remian functional over time, and remember that growth doesn’t happen while we work but while we rest. This holds ture from both a mental and physical perspective.

The average individual needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Understanding how lack of sleep impacts negatively your performance in the gym and your fat loss can be a motivation to improve it. If you don’t get enough sleep because you’re trying to use sleeping time to be more productive, commit to going to bed just a little earlier.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase hunger and cravings for sugar and fats, making people eat between 300 and 400 hundred more daily than they would after a night of restful sleep. Lack of sleep is also responsible for a decrease in total burnt calories, not because of changes in physical activities but due to a decrease in body temperature, which is responsible for metabolic rate.

Another side effect of poor sleeping patterns is a raise in cortisol level at all times: high cortisol impairs metabolism by lowering insulin sensitivity, so that the body isn’t able to use sugar in the blood effectively and therfore causes the body to store more fat. Cortisol is also known as a stress hormone, having high levels of it will cause you to sleep even less because of the pre-existing imbalance in hormonal release from the central nervous system.

If you think that a bad night's sleep is harmless, think again. New research suggests that a single night of sleep deprivation can increase levels of a protein involved in Alzheimer's disease. After a single night of sleep deprivation, the researchers noticed an increase in beta-amyloid levels in the right hippocampus of the subjects' brains, as well as in the thalamus. The hippocampus is the brain region associated with long-term memory, and the thalamus is a brain region involved in processing sensory information.

According to the authors, these findings provide "preliminary evidence for the role of SD [sleep deprivation] on [beta-amyloid] accumulation in the human brain."

Simple tips to improve sleep:

  1. Starting a meditation practice of even just 5 to 10 minutes in the evening can help you feel calmer and more relaxed by the time you get in bed.

  2. Gratitude can also be a positive task to practice before going to bed: spending a few minutes reflecting on the thing you’re grateful for will give you a sense of calm and fulfilment before sleeping.

References:

Lindseth, G., et al. Nutritional Effects on Sleep. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 2011.

Chaput, J., et al. Sleeping Habits Predict the Magnitude of Fat Loss in Adults Exposed to Moderate Calorie Restriction. Obesity Facts, 2012.

Theorell-Haglow, J., et al. Sleep Duration and Central Obesity in Women. Sleep Medicine, 2012, pp. 1079-1085

Ford, E., et al. Sleep Duration and Body Mass Index and Waist Circumference Among U.S. Adults. Obesity Facts, 2013.

Baron, K., et al. Thompson, A., et al. Role of Sleep Timing in caloric intake and BMI. Obesity Facts, 2011.

β-Amyloid accumulation in the human brain after one night of sleep deprivation, Ehsan Shokri-Kojori, et al. 2018

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