When someone brings up the topic of weight loss, a number of things pop to mind.
Sprints. Weightlifting. Tupperware filled with chicken breasts and broccoli.
But you know one vital aspect of losing weight and dropping body fat that gets chronically ignored?
Yes, that’s right. Perhaps the ‘laziest’ activity you could possibly imagine actually contributes to weight loss; if you’re getting enough of it that is.
So How Does Sleep Affect Your Weight?
Now before you cancel your gym membership and start scheduling in daily naps, we should probably discuss the how and why getting your rest can aid your physique aspirations.
I’ll go ahead and spoil the ‘surprise’ ending to this blog: You want to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.
And if you don’t? Here’s a quick rundown of the disadvantages of a poor night’s rest:
1) Reduced Training Performance
We’ll start with the drawback that will be the most obvious to anyone that’s had a terrible night of shut-eye and then attempted to train the next day – you won’t perform nearly as well.
Sub-optimal performance in the gym means fewer calories burned, and reduced strength and muscular improvements. If you’re training in order to improve your health and appearance, sleep before a workout is a must.
2) Disrupted Stress Hormones
Your stress hormone (Cortisol) can either help, or hinder your weight-loss progress. In an ideal world it’ll peak upon waking up (causing you to feel alert and fresh, rather than slow and groggy), and within training sessions (for the same reasons).
However if you’re getting either not enough, or very interrupted sleep, it’s been shown your cortisol levels will fluctuate throughout the day, often peaking towards the early afternoon and evening.
The downside to this isn’t, unfortunately, purely energy based. Disrupted and elevated Cortisol causes muscle breakdown and a depressed metabolic rate, atop of reducing the function of your immune system.
Meaning less muscle, more body fat, and higher chance of getting sick!
3) Increased Carb Cravings
You’ll already be acutely aware that a lack of rest makes you feel tired – that’s a given.
But did you know the body’s natural response to lethargy is often to trigger carbohydrate cravings? We do this because carbs are the fastest form of energy we’re able to consume.
Giving in to those cravings on a day after poor sleep will not only cause a potential increase in body fat storage, it will also play havoc with your blood sugar levels, which comes with it’s own plethora of health concerns.
4) You’ll Lose Muscle
Sleeping is when you recover. Your body produces the largest amount of anabolic hormones whilst you’re getting your rest- which helps repair your muscle, and in turn helps you drop body fat.
If however, you aren’t giving yourself the chance to get your vital beauty sleep, you’ll soon begin to atrophy, that is, to lose muscle mass- and therefore reduce your metabolic rate.
Why Aren’t We Getting Enough Sleep?
There are disadvantages and advantages to the wonderful, technologically advanced age we’re currently living in.
One advantage is the fact you’re able to flick onto the Luke Bremner Fitness blog and read about how to improve the quality of your rest. 🙂
A downside however, if that doing such an activity directly before bed, staring at a bright screen, is going to disrupt the very rest you were attempting to achieve.
You see before we were surrounded by screens and stimuli, the only real light input we had was the sun.
We’d wake up when it rose, and sleep whilst it was down- easy.
If you’re living in a major city then whatever time of day you walk outside, you’ll be greeted with neon lights and non-natural noises.
Such extreme stimulation have affected our circadian rhythm (our natural wake and sleep cycle).
And even if you aren’t living in a light rich environment, how often do you stare at a bright screen moments before attempting to get some rest?
Looking into a light signifies to our mind that we need to wake up.
Coupled with the fact that more often than not that bright screen is depicting overly dramatic scenes which are going to spike your pesky cortisol levels?
It’s pretty clear why more and more people are struggling to get enough rest- and because of this, why more and more people are having trouble losing weight.
So How Can We Start Improving The Quality (And Quantity) Of Our Sleep?
Now you’re aware of the detrimental effects not getting enough rest is to your health and weight loss attempts, let’s explore how we can change our ways and get the recovery boosting, fat burning sleep we need:
1) No Screens For 90 Minutes Pre-Bed
As we just touched upon; we aren’t designed to stare into a bright light and subsequently fall asleep.
Put yourself on a social media and television ban for an hour and a half before you turn in and allow your mind to relax. Reading a book without too much drama within it is a great way to unwind, or attempt the next suggestion…
2) Practice Meditation Or Mindfullness
Now a few of you have probably just rolled your eyes and dismissed this concept off hand as some new-age nonsense- but there’s a reason highly successful business men such as Richard Branson and Tony Robbins have sung its praises.
This could be as simple as shutting off all outside input, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for as little as five minutes.
Or, if you’re keen to bring the practice into the 21st Century, search for a ‘Guided Mediation’ app on your phone, and see which one takes your fancy.
3) Black Out Your Room
This one should come as no surprise, but it’s amazing how few people do it. If light stimulates a part of your brain that wakes you up, don’t you think it makes sense to eliminate it from your room?
This means buying thick blinds to block out the street lights, and even going as far as putting black tape over any devices than have those annoying red or blue bulbs constantly glowing- which actually brings me nicely to my next point…
4) Stop Watching TV In Bed
Or playing on your Smart Phone for that matter.
Your bed is a place to rest- if you begin to assign other tasks, even if it’s outside of the 90 minute ‘no tech’ window, you’ll begin to relate lying down in that room with activities other than sleep.
Watch your TV shows in the lounge and save your bedroom for rest and, if you’re so inclined, sexual relations (another useful tool that can promote good quality sleep, if you’re wondering!).
5) Have A Caffeine Cut-Off Point
I used to work with a girl that couldn’t have a coffee after 11AM or she’d be up half the night. it wasn’t until I initially had a chuckle at her sensitivity did I start to monitor my own caffeine timings.
Now it wasn’t as extreme a her, but if I had caffeine after 4PM it turns out I struggled to get to sleep too!
Caffeine shouldn’t be consumed too close to your bed time, and should also be limited to 2 cups of black coffee per day (and maybe a green tea or two).
It’s for this reason I’ll never understand the temptation of having a coffee after dinner whilst eating out, do people not enjoy sleep?!
6) Consider a Magnesium Supplement
Magnesium deficiency is rampant in the modern western world, which is unfortunate as it’s a mineral that has a regulating affect on that (once again) troublesome stress hormone, cortisol.
If you find you struggle getting rest and feel lethargic upon waking it might be a good idea to pick up a magnesium supplement (non-oxide) to trial and see whether that helps.
This one doesn’t need too much explanation- you’re a human, you need to use up that energy you’ve been given in order to feel like you need sleep once you get into bed! Commit to an exercise regime, or even just make sure you’re getting more incidental activity throughout your day, such as going for a walk at lunch time.
Who would have guessed so much thought can go into a good night’s sleep?
Although once you understand the profound impact it has on your health, it’s easy to gather why such attention needs to be paid to it.
I for one can’t wait to slide into bed later and rest- and if anyone starts calling you lazy for sleeping in now, you can always use the weight-loss excuse as a counter argument 😉
As you can now appreciate, sleep is a fundamental component of achieving optimal health and losing weight. Improving sleep quality and quantity is one of a range of strategies we use at Luke Bremner Fitness to help our clients achieve results.
Improving your sleep will undoubtedly help to improve the way you feel and perform on a daily basis, but we understand this is easier said than done. We also understand there is a lot more to improving your health and losing weight that just sleeping more.
All of our comprehensive personal training programmes include everything you need to be successful in your health and fitness goals. We offer a complimentary consultation so you can find out more about these programmes and how we can help you achieve the results you desire.