You probably know that sleep is essential for good physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. At the same time, you may not be aware of the deep connections between sleep, fitness, and weight. If you’re among the 45 million Americans who attempt to improve health with diet and fitness each year, you’ll probably want to make changes to your sleep habits as well. Here’s why.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released study results revealing that about one third of all adults get inadequate sleep. Not only does this increase the risk of serious chronic conditions ranging from heart disease to type 2 diabetes to obesity, it’s also a major contributing factor in accident-related injuries, disabilities, and fatalities.
Here are some signs that you may not be getting enough sleep:
- You have difficulty falling asleep
- You often sleep less than seven hours per night
- You are often wakeful at night, and you find it difficult to go back to sleep
- You wake up feeling exhausted
- You feel drowsy
- You suffer from low productivity
Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. When you get enough, your body finds it far easier to function. That’s where the link between sleep, weight loss, and fitness comes in.
Poor sleep quality has direct links to weight gain and obesity. One study restricting healthy young men to four hours of sleep per night for just six nights in a row led to prediabetes symptoms, leading researchers to conclude that poor sleep reduces insulin sensitivity and an adverse effect on glucose metabolism. The same study concluded that sleep debt can increase the severity of chronic disorders that tend to appear with age.
Followup studies have revealed that sleeping less than six hours per night over time leads to an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes. In another study, adults who didn’t get enough sleep were 55 percent more likely to gain weight. There are several reasons for this:
- People with sleep deprivation are likely to experience altered levels of the appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin, which regulate hunger. This leads to bigger appetites and the consumption of excess calories.
- Exhaustion leads to poor impulse control, making it harder to say “no” to extra calories.
- According to Joggingaddiction.com It’s often difficult to muster motivation when you’re tired. This can affect food choices, and it can make it far more difficult to stick to a healthy jogging exercise routine.
On the flip side, good sleep quality helps the body regulate appetite, and it enhances physical performance as well as mental performance. The body is able to recover from the stresses of everyday life when you get enough sleep, and if you’re working on fitness, you’ll find that better sleep leads to faster muscle growth. Better sleep also has a positive impact on the immune system, so you’ll probably find that you feel healthier overall when you are sleeping enough.
How to Improve Sleep
One of the best ways to improve sleep quality is to create a bedtime routine and stick to it. This means going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, even on weekends. Here are three more simple ways to fall asleep faster and enjoy better sleep quality.
- Choose a comfortable, healthy mattress. Old mattresses are often saggy and unsupportive. Many are full of dust mites and other allergens that prevent you from truly relaxing and enjoying the deep, restorative sleep you need. If it’s been a while since you treated yourself to a new bed, now is a great time to improve your sleeping environment. After all, it’s the place where you’re supposed to spend about one third of your time.
- Check your thermostat. Most people sleep best in rooms where the temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees. A minor drop in body temperature is part of the body’s sleep routine, and a cool room can help most people feel a bit drowsy. Cool temperatures also help facilitate REM sleep, which helps the brain filter and process essential information.
- Start an exercise habit. While this sleep tip may seem counterintuitive, exercise can help you get better rest. Try to take a short walk each day, or do something else that feels easy and fun. Swimming, yoga, and cycling are great exercises most beginners can do if walking isn’t a favorite. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, it doesn’t take a major effort to make a difference. People who get as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise often enjoy better sleep the same night.
Some people are able to transform the way they sleep in a matter of a few days, but for most of us, it takes a little more time to build healthy sleep habits. Try to make changes over the course of one or two weeks, gradually adding between 30 minutes and an hour to your sleep routine by going to bed a little bit earlier. By sticking to a routine and following other helpful sleep tips, you’ll soon find yourself refreshed – and you’ll probably find that it’s easier to lose weight and get fit faster.