7 Health and Fitness Benefits of Sleep

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7 Health and Fitness Benefits of Sleep

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By Anne Price

Growing up, I thought my mom was “Wonderwoman” — a Greek version of Linda Carter who could also cook. She started her day at 6am and would go-go-go, non-stop, all day long.  “I only need five hours of sleep”, she would say, as she was sweeping the floor, readying us for school and boiling something for our dinner before she’d even had her own breakfast. Did you know that only 1% of the population can operate optimally on 5 hours sleep? My Mom didn’t know that. Neither did I. My mom taught me how to be overworked, overwhelmed and always on the brink of burn out. I followed in my Mom’s footsteps until, after years of people pleasing, long hours at work and always feeling stressed, I finally decided to choose happiness over trying to do everything on my own.

If you’re stressed-out and sleep-deprived, ask yourself, “What kind of life do I want?”  If the answer is that you fantasize about having a less stressful job where you do meaningful work which people value, and a personal life you are truly happy about, then it’s time to re-evaluate your top values. What matters most? What do you need that you aren’t getting? Getting clear on this is the first step to falling asleep with a smile, not from exhaustion, when you close your eyes each night.

I don’t know about you, but if I get just one or two nights of poor quality sleep (which for me means less than 7 hours, or waking-up during the night), the next day I am moody, I can’t think straight. I feel scattered. I’m physically drained.  If I’m lucky, I get half of the things on my To-Do list done that day. I also reach for carbs, sugar and coffee to force my eyelids to stay open until I finally crash.  What’s worse, I gain a couple of pounds around my belly despite my otherwise very-successful fat loss efforts…. which is frustrating.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like waking up feeling groggy, then wasting the day away, only to repeat the vicious cycle, again the following day.  Sound familiar? Probably, because research shows that millions of people are living life ’tired and wired.’

It’s time we stop accepting sleep deprivation as “a normal part of life” and collectively make choices that honor our health and well-being. The days of thrashing our bodies with stimulants and white-knuckling it just to make it through the day, are over.  

Here are 7 health and fitness benefits you’ll get when you commit to getting more ‘Zzz’s’:

1. Increased vitality, energy and engagement in life

2. Increased performance (body and mind)

3. Increased muscle tone and shape

4. Increased strength

5. Decelerated aging

6. Increased tissue repair and workout recovery

7. Decreased chance of injury

As a health, fitness and life coach, I can confirm that clients who are sleep deprived show the effects of secreting more cortisol—a stress hormone that leads to carrying extra weight around their waistline (even if they eat less, do more crunches, or run on the treadmill until their legs drop off). Sleep-deprived clients have less energy for our workouts and don’t recover as well, which speeds up the aging process and increases the chance of injury.  Not a good situation…I hate to see good people get frustrated and feel hopeless about not getting results they want, despite their best efforts. That’s why I now insist on a customized sleep protocol to ensure my clients’ success.

Study after study (like the one in the Journal Of Nature Communications*) proves that depriving yourself of sleep for just one night, increases cravings for unhealthy food and decreases your ability to make good food choices in the frontal cortex. So, after a single poor night’s sleep, notice if you get the urge to grab for a muffin or bagel instead of your morning protein smoothie. Notice how quickly your energy crashes. Notice how you crave more sugar and carbs throughout your day.

Need more convincing? Okay. Fat-regulating hormones actually stop doing their job when you are sleep-deprived. This makes it harder, if not impossible, to burn fat.  No matter how long, how hard or how frequently you workout. It turns out that a healthy sleep schedule helps us burn fat. Who knew that you could burn fat by sleeping? Pretty great news. Now, here’s why the body hangs onto fat when you don’t sleep enough:

When these 7 hormones are out of balance, you will store fat rather than burn it.

1. Leptin (tells your brain you’re full).

2. Ghrelin (tells your brain you’re hungry).

3. Insulin (stores fat rather than releases it).

4. Glucagon (releases fat from your fat cells to use as energy)

5. Adiponectin (an anti-inflammatory hormone which regulates the breakdown of fat).

6. Cortisol (when chronically elevated, stores fat, breaks down metabolically active fat burning tissue).

7. Growth hormone (is created by our body during sleep, muscle tissue repair, increases fat metabolism and energy, slows down aging).

Work on getting these 7 hormones in balance with one of our Akasha doctors/practitioners first before you reach out to me to get lean, fit, energized and strong. My motto is get healthy first, then get fit.  Otherwise, you will continue to be frustrated and treat the symptoms of fat gain rather than getting to the root cause.  I want you to get a high return on the investment of your precious time and energy when you work out, so you see the results you want, faster.

So, now that you know you need more sleep, how do you do it when you’re wound up from your busy day?

Here are some ideas on how to wind down:

1. Exercise in the morning or early afternoon. Exercising too late in the day can leave you wide-awake at bedtime, making it harder to fall asleep.

2. Find a sleep ritual that speaks to you and helps you relax.

I start getting ready for bed about 30-45 minutes before I fall asleep.  When I get ready for bed I turn all electronics off, dim the lights, and do my deep breathing exercise (i.e. inhale slowly and deeply for 4 counts, I hold my breath for as long as I can and exhale slowly for about 4-7 counts, I repeat 6-10 times).  When my mind starts to wander, I focus my attention back to my breath. I notice the air moving in and out of my nostrils and the rise and fall of my abdomen.  Sometimes I incorporate a meditation practice which helps me feel centered and present, and calms my mind and body.  I count my blessings and become aware of what I am grateful for from that day. I put aside all the things I didn’t get done and remind myself that I am healthy, whole and complete just as I am.  

This may not be your thing, so try different approaches until you create a soothing bedtime ritual which works for you.

Your method may be to listen to relaxing music, take a hot bath or shower, read a novel, spiritual or self-growth book, a small glass of red wine with dinner (a small amount is ok, too much will disrupt your sleep).  Also, avoid drinking all beverages at least an hour before bed, so you don’t disrupt your sleep by getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom.

Whatever it is you do, don’t overlook the importance of sleep to your health and fitness. If you want to learn more about the importance of sleep to your health, and how to incorporate healthy sleep patterns into your life, check out Akasha’s Sleep Program by clicking here.

Love, Your Fitness Coach

Anna Price is a certified Fitness and Muscular Realignment Coach. For the past 20 years Anna has dedicated her personal and professional life to the importance of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Call 310-451-8880 or email info@akashacenter.com to make an appointment Today!

 


References:

Greer, S.M, Goldstein, A.N. & Walker, M.P. (2013) The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Food Desire in the Human Brain (2013). Nature Communications 4, Article number:2259

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2013/130806/ncomms3259/full/ncomms3259.html

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