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Catch a Few Winks, Lose a Few Pounds – The Importance of Sleep

Text Only LogoDoes sleep annoy you as much as it does me? Honestly, what’s with this whole having to let the body go into a nightly hibernation state? And don’t get me started on dreams. It’s like our brains want to remind us how weird we are. Many writers have imagined a future where sleep might be eliminated, freeing us up to enjoy round-the-clock activity and productivity.

Until such a miracle occurs, sleep remains integral to our lives. Seems many of us are constantly lacking it, trying to ward it off with an Nth cup of coffee, or surrendering to it when the only other method for keeping our eyes open involves stapling eyelids to the forehead. Yet for writers, sleep isn’t just the domain of surreal dreams that inspire stories and make us consider therapy sessions. It’s also a vital element of any fitness and health routine. Getting enough sleep (an average of eight hours per night) can be of enormous benefit to mental and physical activity, whereas sleep deprivation comes with a whole swath of troublesome symptoms.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to…

  • High cortisol levels – This directly contributes to more stress on all your systems
  • Insulin sensitivity – Increasing the rate at which calories are stored as fat
  • Higher appetite and cravings – Causing more struggle in trying to maintain a healthy diet
  • Muscle loss – Decline in strength as well as fat-burning mass
  • Mental impairment – Unable to focus, less motivation, and discouragement in being less productive overall

Studies have even shown that sleep deprivation can impair you as much as being intoxicated.

On the flipside, healthy levels of sleep help with…

  • Weight loss – Proper sleep patterns contribute to appetite control, higher metabolisms, better athletic performance, and other factors which help with weight loss.
  • Hormone regulation – Sleep helps regulate the amount of leptin and ghrelin, hormones responsible for suppressing hunger.
  • Rebuilding muscle – Growth hormones are also produced at a higher rate when sleeping, which aids in tissue repair and rebuilding damaged muscles.
  • Enhanced brain functions – Enjoy better memory, faster response times, and higher concentration with a good night’s rest.
  • Stronger immune system – If your body is diverting energy to help sustain you during times of sleep deprivation, it can become less effective in fighting off illness and disease.

Aside from the obvious importance of sleep, another thing to note is that it’s often important to not exercise too late in the evening. While consistent exercise is a good thing, exercising too close to your intended bedtime can disrupt your sleep patterns, keeping you awake longer and cutting into your rest hours. As with anything, this might not be the case for you, and you may be able to exercise right before bed and never suffer from sleeplessness. If you do though, try to have at least five hours in-between your workout and when you head to bed. This gives your core body temperature time to cool down, which will act as a biological trigger and tell your brain it’s time to start shifting to sleep mode.

Do you ever struggle with getting a good night’s sleep? Has exercise helped you sleep better—and when do you exercise in relation to your bedtime? While the occasional restless night isn’t a terrible thing, sustained sleeplessness or deprivation can cause long-term systemic damage and weight gain. How do you encourage yourself to rest well with this in mind?

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