For years your doctor, your mom and your friend who goes to the gym multiple times a week have probably been telling you to eat better and exercise more. So you’ve made some lifestyle changes; cutting back fat and sweet intakes and doing some cardiovascular exercise a few days a week. Despite all this, you still feel burned out, can’t drop those extra few pounds, and don’t have the energy to greet each day with enthusiasm. What are we missing here?
The third piece of the puzzle is called SLEEP. Though the exact mechanisms of how sleep works, how sleep rejuvenates the body and mind is still mysterious, one thing sleep specialists and scientists do know is that adequate sleep is necessary for healthy functioning. Research shows that all mammals need sleep, and that sleep regulates mood and is related to learning and memory functions.
When we don’t sleep long enough it always catches up with us, and we’re never pretty when it does. Our brain turns to autopilot, our muscles turn to jelly and we mumble our way towards bed, only to wake up the next morning and face another early morning battle with our alarm clock!
Our body requires sleep as a relief from the physical and mental demands we place upon ourselves when awake. Sleep slows our metabolic rate, allowing natural healing that helps our body to correct any imbalances that arise from our lifestyle. Sleep is essential to normal biological function
Sleep deprivation results in decreased performance – both cognitive and physical – and diminished emotional stability. When we are awake and active, we burn adesnosine triphosphate (ATP), which breaks down to adenosine. Over time, adenosine levels build up, causing pressure for sleep.
Poor sleep can reduce our energy levels throughout the day and make us feel irritable, moody, stressed and unable to concentrate. If watching your weight, it also pays to get a good night sleep. Sleep deprivation lowers our levels of leptin, the hormone involved in regulated food intake. Low leptin levels tell the brain there is a shortage of food and our appetite increases as a result.
Moreover, when you had a poor sleep, you tend to wake yourself up with a jolt of caffeine or sugary snack, such as candy bars or cans of soda. Why? Because poor sleep lower our insulin level throughout the day and with this occurs, your body tells your brain that it needs sugar in order to increase your insulin level. Your brain will tell you that you are craving for something sweet and that’s why you pick a candy bar or a can of soda. You build up extra sugar that is actually unnecessary for your body and of course, extra calories, and the excess calories will stored as fat by your body.
In fact, lack of sleep creates a vicious cycle – the more tired you are, the more caffeine you’ll consume to stay awake during the day; but the more caffeine you consume, the harder it’ll be to fall asleep at night. Not only are foods and drinks high in caffeine likely to keep you up at night, but they’re also usually replete with sugar or artificial sugar and not much else. When a healthy snack such as a carrot or granola bar is replaced with a can of soft drinks, you’re at higher risk for putting on weight and it becomes harder to sustain energy for a longer period of time.
By now you probably realize that health is complex – if one part of the body system suffers, you’re likely to see consequences in other areas of your life. Though diet and exercise are critical components of healthy lifestyles, it’s also important to remember that sleep is inherently linked with how we eat (and how much), how we exercise (and whether or not we lose weight), and how we function on a daily basis. Getting the proper amount of sleep each night is necessary to face the world with your best foot forward. Sleep will help you on the road to good fitness, good eating and good health.
You will need to establish a regular time for sleeping and waking so it will tell your mind when it’s time to rest. You will probably want to avoids heavy meals and caffeine in the evening as well as too much alcohol before bed. Try to have a quiet time or relaxation before bed.
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Good luck and stay motivated!