Is Sleep as Important as Diet and Exercise?

Here is a guest post from a friend, Elizabeth Petty, who has years of background in sleep science and has a website “Mattress Advisor” that helps people understand the importance of sleep and recovery and assists in informing people about sleep products that can make for a more restful and productive night.

For years, the health and fitness community has sought to achieve their fitness goals solely through diet and exercise. However, there is one huge missing piece of the puzzle—sleep.
In recent years, more and more research has shown that sleep is the glue that holds a healthy lifestyle together. In fact, this research is proving that adequate rest might even be more important than diet or exercise alone. This is because sleep is the body’s time to rest and recharge. Without proper sleep, our bodies are not able to function at their full capacity.

In this article, the experts from Mattress Advisor aim to walk you through the link between sleep and athletic performance and why sleep should be prioritized right alongside diet and exercise.

Sleep and Muscle Mass

If you have ever wondered what other components play into gaining lean muscle mass other than getting your daily intake of protein and prioritizing weight lifting, let’s talk about Human Growth Hormone, also known as HGH. I’m sure most people dedicated to their physical fitness have heard of this term in some capacity, but have you ever wondered why it’s so important to achieving your workout goals? Here’s the deal: HGH is the hormone responsible for strengthening muscles, increasing metabolism, improving injury recovery, heightening athletic performance, and more. In a nutshell, it is what allows our bodies to recover and grow.

Here’s the catch. Our bodies produce the largest amount of HGH during sleep. In fact, sleep is the primary time our bodies work to regulate and release all types of hormones we need, and in most cases the hormone regulation takes place during the deepest stage of sleep, known as REMs sleep. Therefore, without adequate sleep, HGH will not be released at the same volume and production will be stunted the day after a restless night. Lack of HGH can cause weight gain, extreme muscle loss, and puts you at risk for muscle related injuries. So if you are thinking of missing out on precious hours of sleep for an extra gym session, think again.

Sleep and Injury Recovery

So what else happens when you miss out on the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep in a night? As stated above, sleep regulates Human Growth Hormone, which helps our muscles become stronger. But did you know sleep can also help athletes recover from injury faster? Sleep is the time our cells and tissue repair themselves, including our muscular tissue. As we sleep, blow flow increases and blood carries the nutrients our cells need to regenerate and grow. So you see, sleep plays a big role in healing, whether from an injury or a chronic condition. The body needs to rest to maximize its body function. Without the proper rest, people can take much longer to heal.

Sleep and Weight Loss

In addition to muscle growth and injury recovery, sleep also prevents the one thing most all of us try to avoid: weight gain. There is a reason that the weight loss industry is worth billions of dollars. Every year, the number one New Year’s Resolution people set out to resolve is losing weight. What if we told you logging extra hours of shut eye could get you a step closer to your weight loss goals? Before you get too excited, in no way are we indicating staying horizontal will magically lead you to shed pounds. However, adequate rest in combination with healthy eating and exercise habits will.

Just like HGH is regulated during sleep, so are the hormones that control and regulate your appetite, leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that helps you feel full. Sleep deprivation causes leptin to decrease. Meaning the less sleep you get, the less satisfied (or full) you feel after a meal. Ghrelin, on the other hand, is known as “the hunger hormone.” Its job is to help you feel hunger. Sleep loss causes ghrelin levels to rise. In other words, the less you sleep the more likely you are to feel hungry. So if a lack of sleep interrupts the regulation of these hormones simultaneously, meaning you are feeling more hungry and less satisfied after a meal, this is not good news for your waistline.

Even more, a lack of sleep also results in poor insulin resistance, causing you to crave more sugar and foods with lots of carbohydrates. To make matters worse, sugar laden foods cause you to feel sluggish and lack the fuel your body needs to make it through a sweat sesh. Talk about a double whammy when trying to lose weight because you will eat more, but move less creating a caloric abundance which ultimately leads to weight gain.

So next time you decide to sacrifice precious hours of rest for just one more episode of your favorite show on Netflix or debate hitting snooze to give your body that extra hour of sleep it craves, remember  the importance that sleep has on you achieving your fitness and weight loss goals. It is good to rest and vitally important to your health and physical fitness that your prioritize sleep. Your waistline and body will thank you!

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