The debate about good health and fitness always revolves around diet and exercise. You hear from doctors, nutritionists, fitness experts and friends that all you need to do to stay in shape is eat well and hit the gym often. So you eventually follow the “eat less, move often” mantra too, but what if, despite your best efforts, you see no real results. The reason might be that you’re overlooking the third and vital piece of the puzzle; sleep. This doesn’t, by any means, undermine the importance of exercise and diet towards fitness, yet without proper sleep they remain less efficient.
Why Sleep is Integral for Health and Fitness?
Sleep gives you the energy you need to work out on a regular basis, regulates your metabolism, rejuvenates your body, repairs your muscles and boosts your immune system. This not only helps you keep fit but also generally healthy. On the other hand, not having enough sleep can make you cranky, fatigued and fat. What's more alarming is that it can also put you at the risk for serious issues like hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. According to research, even a few hours of a sleep shortfall can shorten life span.
To understand how sleep helps us get in shape, we need to take a look at what happens within our body when we sleep. There are a lot of hormones that are released and work best only when we are sleeping. Foremost is the growth hormone. When we sleep, the body is technically at rest so there's not much energy consumption. This allows the growth hormone to use up all the spare energy and work efficiently. The growth hormone is responsible for rejuvenating the body, building and repairing muscles, promoting fat loss and reducing fat storage. That's essentially what you need to stay fit. According to research, the amount of fat you can reduce, by exercises and diets, is lessened by 55% if you don’t sleep well. That's a huge number and the feeling that your hard work at the gym is not being rewarded enough can be quite depressing. So while you count your calories and reps don’t forget to count your hours of sleep.
Become a Sleeping Beauty!
Sleep also helps to make you look younger. The growth hormone released during sleep rebuilds and repairs body cells making your skin look younger and fresh. No wonder, big brands advertise and stress the importance of applying night cream before going to bed claiming that it will make you look 20 years younger. They work because cellular regeneration and absorption of nutrients to the skin is at its peak when you sleep. However, keep in mind that even the best and most expensive night creams won't work if you are not getting enough quality sleep. Lack of sleep affects the flow of nutrients to the skin making the skin look dull and unhealthy. So instead of spending hundreds of dollars on beauty creams, just keep up with your sleep schedule and you will look and feel fabulous.
Sleep Healthy, Eat Healthy.
Other hormones that come into play while you are sleeping are Leptin and Ghrelin. Leptin is the satisfying hormone which is produced when you sleep. Ghrelin, on the other hand is the hormone that promotes hunger and is stimulated from lack of sleep. Simply put, when you don't sleep enough your stomach will feel empty. Even after having your normal meals you will feel hungry and less satiated. As a result you are likely to select bigger portions and end up eating more than you should be. Now that's not a good thing if you are looking to get fit.
What’s worse is that lack of sleep will make you crave for unhealthy foods. Studies show that the chemical imbalance caused by lack of sleep affects your brain’s ability to make complex decisions and to control your urge especially related to food.
Contrary to the popular belief that you only need sleep when you are tired, sleep has tremendous effects on other bodily functions too. Health, fitness and appearance are all tied to sleep. So start prioritizing sleep and the next time you plan on pulling an all-nighter, remember messing with sleep means messing with your health.