Eating well and exercising regularly are the two main pieces to the wellness puzzle, right? Well, sort of. Another extremely important factor in maintaining a healthy physique is one that several people overlook: sleep.
One of the most frequent questions I get as a personal trainer is, “Should I workout today even though I didn’t get enough sleep last night?” Sound familiar? This is a tough one, because both sleep and exercise are equally important in achieving optimal health. If you didn’t get to bed on time the night before, try to sleep until you’ve reached at least 7 hours of sleep before hitting the gym. If that’s not an option, I recommend a light core workout like yoga or Pilates and then setting an earlier bed time that evening.
Studies show that sleep deprivation can increase appetite because of an increase in a hormone that controls hunger levels called ghrelin. Having even just one bad night of sleep can make people feel groggy and hungry. Research also indicates that lack of sleep leads to lower inhibitions, making it that much harder to say “no” to the brownies and donuts and cookies (oh my!). Increased appetite, feeling tired, and lowered inhibitions all lead to not only eating more but to eating foods that are not as healthy for you. And even though you may feel like you want to eat more, you actually do not need the extra calories. Put it all together and what do you get? Weight gain.
There are ongoing studies that are trying to find the definitive correlation between increasing sleep time and its effect on weight control. If these studies are proven, sleep could be prescribed for weight loss or even medical conditions like Diabetes. And you wouldn’t even need to stop at the pharmacy or pull out your wallet!
I recommend clients get 8 hours of sleep at night as often as possible. Just like children, adults need a bedtime. It’s helpful to put yourself to bed at a specific time every night so that you’re able to get this amount of sleep. For example, if you know you have to wake up at 6:00 a.m. on most days, make sure you’re in bed by 9:45 PM every night, giving yourself 15 minutes to fall into an 8-hour slumber. Not only will 8 hours of Z’s keep your appetite in check, it will also reduce stress, keep your skin healthy, sharpen your thinking skills, and improve your mood (to name a few).
The evidence is clear…sleeping is just as important as eating well and working out in order to achieve your best you. Sweet Dreams!