You already know that sleep is important for mental health, but did you know that having good sleep habits is essential for your physical appearance as well?
While most people focus solely on diet and exercise, sleep is the biggest underutilized factor for fat loss and physique enhancement!
Numerous studies have linked inadequate sleep to various issues with health and body composition. Some research has even showed just ONE night of bad sleep can lead to increased hunger and fat storage the following day!
In this article I’ll break down why sleep is so key for your success and shredding body fat; plus, there’s a bonus section at the end giving you my blueprint list on how to optimize it!
Benefits of Sleep #1: Reduces Fatigue
Lots of people complain of daily fatigue and low energy but fail to realize that their sleep is a key tool to fix this.
This lack of energy or chronic fatigue can largely be due to having a misaligned circadian rhythm.
Your circadian rhythm is a master regulator of when you sleep and wake up and produces various important hormones throughout the day to help control this (1).
For instance, as the day goes on and you get close to sleep, melatonin levels increase. Melatonin is a key hormone making you tired and relaxed (hence why it’s used as a sleep supplement) allowing you to go to bed at a similar time and with ease (2).
At the opposite end of the spectrum, cortisol rises just before waking in what is called the cortisol awakening response (3). This spike in the AM, again controlled by the circadian rhythm, helps wake you up and provides energy.
When you spend each day going to sleep at different times, this cycle starts to go out of whack. As a result, these hormonal secretions become misaligned with the end result being that you do not feel refreshed and energetic, even after getting a good night’s sleep.
By ensuring that your circadian rhythm is in optimized function, it’s likely that you’ll wake feeling refreshed and energetic, allowing for greater productivity, higher levels of motivation and better performance both in and out of the gym.
To optimize your circadian rhythm, I suggest attempting to go to sleep and wake up at a similar time each day and focus on deep sleep. This will allow your body to get on a normal schedule and begin secreting the necessary hormones in accordance with this schedule.
Benefits of Sleep #2: Reduces Risk Of Weight Gain
Research has revealed that great sleep is essential for avoiding obesity and losing body fat.
It seems that having short or poor sleep durations leads to many different outcomes such as increased hunger, extra fat storage and an increased opportunity to eat (as you are awake for more hours per day).
Additionally, short sleep durations can lead to increased feelings of fatigue (meaning you skip the gym or train with lower intensity) and a decreased metabolic rate, burning less calories per day (4).
All of these outcomes result in an increased amount of calorie intake along with a reduced amount of energy being expended through activity and normal biological processes. In essence, this is a perfect recipe for weight gain – a reduced calorie output combined with an increased calorie consumption!
By lengthening your time asleep, you’ll be able to avoid the increase in calorie consumption, reducing hunger while ensuring greater time spent expending energy during your waking hours.
Benefits of Sleep #3: Improve Weight-controlling Hormones Such as Leptin
Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat tissue, which regulates many different things such as metabolism and your desire to eat food.
It’s known as the good hunger hormone, telling you when to stop eating and reducing excess food/energy intake, helping you to avoid further weight gain.
Interestingly, studies have revealed that short sleep duration is associated with reduced levels of leptin. This can lead to unwanted food consumption and thus, weight gain, regardless of other factors (5, 6, 7).
Ensuring that you get enough sleep for your goals may allow for optimal secretion of leptin and the resultant control of food intake.
Learn more about Leptin and Ghrelin in this blog.
Benefits of Sleep #4: Reduces The Hunger Hormone Ghrelin
On the other side of the coin, poor sleep can increase Ghrelin, the key hunger hormone that leads to weight gain and feeling hungry.
This hormone, secreted by cells in the stomach, reacts to when you normally eat, and how stretched your stomach is. When the stomach is empty, these cells secrete ghrelin to make you hungry, ensuring that you consume more food (8).
Unfortunately, inadequate sleep can begin to mess with this system and cause ghrelin secretion at times when it’s not necessary, causing you to get excess cravings and consume more food (leading to weight gain) (5).
Making sure you get at least 7-8 hours of shut-eye is imperative for avoiding unwanted ghrelin secretion and in turn, keeps hunger low and controllable throughout the day.
Benefits of Sleep #5: Train Harder with More Intensity
A major determinant of improving your physique is the ability to train harder and more frequently in the gym.
Ensuring proper gym progression and specific overload (such as increasing the weights/reps) is essential for muscle growth and fat loss due to extra calorie burn.
Research and common sense shows that by ensuring good sleep duration and quality, you’ll be able to train harder and for longer, burning more fat. Additionally, you might even feel more mentally motivated to continue training and not skip workouts (9).
We’ve all had a bad night’s sleep leading to us often skipping the gym, or, if we do make it to the gym, then we have a bad and shorter work out. So when this occurs, it’s no coincidence; it doesn’t take an expert to know how important sleep is for your training.
While there are many factors impacting performance, adequate and quality sleep ranks towards the top of the list. If you often have bad sleep you will likely not be optimizing your workouts, muscle growth or fat loss.
Benefits of Sleep #6: Improved Carbohydrate Metabolism
One of the most important ways that sleep helps with your physique is how it optimizes your body’s metabolism of carbohydrates and blood sugar levels.
When you consume carbohydrates, they are converted to glucose (sugar) and enter the blood. As a result, insulin is released to help shuttle that glucose into various tissues in the body which require it.
Unfortunately, if blood glucose levels are constantly elevated, this can lead to issues such as insulin resistance; a major cause of obesity and disease states such as type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, research has shown that adequate sleep can help optimize your body’s response to elevated blood glucose (10, 11).
In addition to a sound exercise and nutrition program, getting quality, long duration sleep is imperative for optimizing your body’s ability to handle blood glucose spikes.
How To Optimize Sleep & Reap The Amazing Benefits
If you believe that lack of sleep may be sabotaging your physique efforts, I suggest utilizing some of the following techniques to help optimize your sleep patterns:
Optimize Your Circadian Rhythm
As mentioned earlier, your circadian rhythm is extremely important. I suggest going to sleep and waking at a similar time each day to optimize this process and get into a great routine. This will help optimize all your hormones and also improve sleep quality in the long term.
Avoid Light Exposure Near Bedtime
A major cause of sleep deprivation is exposure to light before bed. Light emitted from devices such as phones or tablets is from a light spectrum that directly impedes release of melatonin (which puts us to sleep). I suggest avoiding these devices for at least 1 hour before bed and wearing orange, blue light blocking glasses (12).
Eat Enough Food
Restricting calories significantly or hardcore dieting can result in feelings of insomnia and poor sleep. This is largely due to an increase in stress hormones, adrenaline levels and excess hunger pangs.
If you find yourself in this situation, I suggest using other short-term tools to help you sleep while dieting, such as supplements and relaxation techniques. Another common approach I use with clients is shifting more food into the evening so they can still optimize sleep when dieting.
Supplement with Sleep Melatonin
If you find that your sleep is all over the place, supplementing with melatonin is the most common option, due to its powerful, research proven benefits on sleep. This supplement can help optimize your circadian rhythm in addition to not showing dependence symptoms if used sensibly in the short term. It also has numerous other health benefits (13).
Always check with your doctor before using melatonin as it alters chemical reactions in the brain. Other useful nighttime supplements are ZMA, Ashwagandha and 5-HTP or GABA.
Learn more on how research proven methods optimize sleep in this blog post.
The Amazing Benefits of Sleep
Optimizing your sleep quality and duration is imperative for health, energy, brain function, fat loss and muscle growth.
By improving sleep you can improve:
- Fat loss
- Muscle growth
- Sports performance
- Brain function
- Overall health
If your sleep isn’t on point you can likely fix it and see massive returns, enhancing everything else you do.
Learn more ways to optimize sleep in this 5 point blog post.
- Miaskowski, C., Lee, K., Dunn, L., Dodd, M., Aouizerat, B. E., West, C., … & Swift, P. (2011). Sleep-Wake Circadian Activity Rhythm Parameters and Fatigue in Oncology Patients Prior to the Initiation of Radiation Therapy. Cancer nursing, 34(4), 255.
- Gooley, J. J., Chamberlain, K., Smith, K. A., Khalsa, S. B. S., Rajaratnam, S. M. W., Van Reen, E., … Lockley, S. W. (2011). Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 96(3), E463–472.
- Fries, E., Dettenborn, L., & Kirschbaum, C. (2009). The cortisol awakening response (CAR): facts and future directions. International journal of Psychophysiology, 72(1), 67-73.
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- Littman, A. J., Vitiello, M. V., Foster-Schubert, K., Ulrich, C. M., Tworoger, S. S., Potter, J. D., … & McTiernan, A. (2007). Sleep, ghrelin, leptin and changes in body weight during a 1-year moderate-intensity physical activity intervention. International journal of obesity, 31(3), 466-475.
- Spiegel, K., Leproult, R., L’Hermite-Balériaux, M., Copinschi, G., Penev, P. D., & Van Cauter, E. (2004). Leptin levels are dependent on sleep duration: relationships with sympathovagal balance, carbohydrate regulation, cortisol, and thyrotropin. The Journal of clinical endocrinology & metabolism, 89(11), 5762-5771.
- Sakata, I., & Sakai, T. (2010). Ghrelin cells in the gastrointestinal tract. International journal of peptides, 2010.
- Mah, C. D., Mah, K. E., Kezirian, E. J., & Dement, W. C. (2011). The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Sleep, 34(7), 943-950.
- Reaven, G. M. (1988). Role of insulin resistance in human disease. Diabetes, 37(12), 1595-1607.
- Cappuccio, F. P., D’elia, L., Strazzullo, P., & Miller, M. A. (2010). Quantity and quality of sleep and incidence of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes care, 33(2), 414-420.
- Lewy, A. J., Wehr, T. A., Goodwin, F. K., Newsome, D. A., & Markey, S. P. (1980). Light suppresses melatonin secretion in humans. Science, 210(4475), 1267-1269.
- Megwalu, U. C., Finnell, J. E., & Piccirillo, J. F. (2006). The effects of melatonin on tinnitus and sleep. Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, 134(2), 210-213.