We all know the feeling after a bad night’s sleep.
You wake up groggy and grumpy, you drag your feet out the door, you sip second and third cups of coffee, but the exhaustion is still there. You spend your day in a fog.
And sleepiness isn’t the only downside of poor rest: your body composition goals might be in jeopardy, too. Your body needs sleep to function at its best, and it’s willing to punish you for stealing that away. As we’ll see, missing beauty sleep doesn’t just sap energy and motivation. It brings the gears of fat loss and muscle growth to a grinding halt—and may even reverse your progress. Whatever your goals are, bad sleep is a wrench in your machine. Let’s look at what goes on under the hood when we stop sleeping well, and what we can do to get our engine humming again.
Sleep and Fat Loss
You may have noticed that not sleeping well has some interesting effects on your appetite. Many people report that they feel hungrier after a bad night of sleep, and several studies have shown that sleep-deprived people are hungrier than their well-rested peers. Not only do subjects report higher levels of hunger, but blood samples looking at key hunger hormones tell the same story. Subjects who were sleep-deprived had increased ghrelin (a hunger hormone) and decreased leptin (a satiety hormone), and their hunger scores were directly related to these hormone changes.
And other studies have found that lower amounts of sleep are associated with higher BMI and higher risk for obesity and diabetes. Poor sleep and fat loss don’t mix very well. So, if your goal is to maximize fat loss, your success may depend on getting a good night’s sleep.
The Habits and Hygiene of Sleep
Now, you’re probably wondering how much sleep you need and what counts as “good sleep.”
Most research on sleep and performance has set the minimum at seven hours , but this is highly variable. For example, it’s common for elite athletes to need as many as ten hours of sleep for full recovery. The rest of us might be able to get away with less, but trial and error is the only way to find the magic number. Once you nail down the right amount, make sure that you schedule your day around sleep rather than taking what you can get after the day is done. Make it a priority: Getting the right amount of sleep allows us to maximize the quality of the time we spend awake.
And sleep quantity isn’t the only thing we need to worry about. Quality is just as important. Ten hours of tossing and turning just isn’t going to do the trick.
So, to get that awesome night of sleep on a regular basis, you need to get a handle on your “sleep hygiene”:
- Shut your electronics off 1 hour before bed
- Sleep in the dark (maybe use a night mask)
- Keep a consistent bedtime.. yeah your parents were right!
- Siesta, 20-30 minutes may be a good time frame to reset your body for the day
Put It to Rest
Most of you know that sleep is important for general health, but the impact it has on your body composition isn’t as obvious. The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is imperative for success in the gym and on the scale. Giving sleep the respect it deserves can be a difficult trick to master, but the strategies above can make it easy. Eventually, resting like a king or queen will feel like second-nature.
Getting a handle on these sleep basics will go a long way toward helping you lose fat and gain muscle. And as a bonus, you’ll feel better, more focused, and more productive in your daily life. If you want to boost your performance in the gym and progress in the mirror, take the time to prioritize your sleep. The benefits are hard to beat!