|Exercise + Nutrition. We tend to think of these two categories when it comes to “health and fitness”. But did you know that a third category is crucial for well-being, and it’s one that’s often overlooked: Sleep. Good, restorative, lovely, awesome, incredible (we could go on… :)) sleep.
The not-so-good news is that most of us aren’t getting enough of it and it can make us drag through the day like we’re rowing upstream with only one oar. Not cool! As our friends at Precision Nutrition note: people who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night gain almost twice as much weight over a 6-year period as people who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. Excessive sleep isn’t necessarily better: those who sleep more than 9 hours per night have similar body composition outcomes as those who sleep less than 6 hours.
How does lack of good sleep affect my body composition?
Our hormones are negatively affected when we don’t sleep adequately: growth hormone (GH) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) go down, and cortisol levels shoot up. This, along with the effects on our neurological system, creates the perfect storm for storing fat. Moreover, sleep deprivation can make working out seem really difficult and can even alter our appetite controland the types of food we choose.
Aside from fat gain, we find lack of good sleep is a precursor to diseases like stroke, heart attack, and mood disorders. It’s kinda a big deal.
Why aren’t I sleeping enough?
There are many reasons why we don’t sleep long enough – many people cite the heavy thoughts of work, stress from the to-do list and other mental clutter as reasons why they stay awake longer than desired. However, perhaps the largest contributor to decreased length of time sleeping is our choice to put off going to bed! We cut back on sleep because we choose to. (gasp…ouch.) We watch TV. We browse the internet. We go out with friends. This voluntary bedtime delay is something found only in modern society. If we were to remove forms of artificial stimulation and excessive work/life demands, humans would likely sleep for about 8 hours per night, based on the natural sleep/wake cycle of the brain.
We know sleep is crucial. We even walk our Valeo / Nutrition members through an entire two-week lesson on sleep habits because they so strongly affect our mental and physical well-being.
So, what are some things I can do to gain better control of bedtime?
Check out this Infographic from PN and see what one step you can take tonight to help your body get more rested. We can’t wait for you to experience the rewards longer, more restorative sleep can bring!
==> To dig deeper, read PN’s article “All About Sleep”.