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The Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

Author: Rudy Mawer Contributing Author

While people focus on the next best workout or secret supplement, improving your sleep could be one of the most powerful ways to improve your health, physique and lay down new muscle.

In this article, you are going to learn how to unleash the powerful benefits of sleep and why it is key for your goals.

Sleep & Fat Loss

Starting with body fat and weight loss, research has repeatedly shown that more sleep can help you lose weight, burn body fat, boost your metabolism, decrease hunger hormones and decrease your calorie intake when dieting.

For weight loss, the above points are a perfect combo, almost guaranteeing your weight loss success if you follow the other staples, such as diet, exercises, and a perfect supplement regime. Interestingly, in-depth research even monitored the effects of sleep on the 2 key hunger hormones, leptin, and ghrelin.

Ghrelin works to increase food intake and is known as the bad hunger hormone, encouraging fat gain and cravings. In contrast, leptin is the positive hunger hormone, telling your brain when you are full and to stop eating. After a perfect night’s sleep, you will witness a decrease in the bad hunger hormone ghrelin while simultaneously see an increase in the positive hunger hormone leptin, by up to around 20%, based on some research.

When studies have specifically looked at fat loss, they’ve found a clear correlation between the amount of sleep and the amount of fat you lose. In fact, researchers have suggested that a sleep of short duration is one of the biggest risk factors in obesity.

In another large review, those who slept less were between 50 and 90% more likely to suffer from obesity compared to those who slept for longer periods each night!

Sleep for Muscle Growth & Performance

For muscle growth and performance, sleep is just as important as good nutrition or a good supplement regime.

If you’ve ever had a bad night or limited sleep you will likely know how it can noticeably affect your workouts in the gym or even your motivation to get to the gym in the first place! This is because it affects all aspects of your brain, hormones, and central nervous system.

Apart from decreased gym performance, which will seriously hamper your ability to grow and impede long-term progress, extended periods of poor or shortened sleep will affect key muscle-building factors such as:

  • Dietary choices,
  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone
  • Gym performance
  • Resistance to fatigue in workouts, energy, focus, motivation
  • Blood sugar control
  • Increased inflammation
  • Decreased gut health, which plays a key role in nutrient absorption
  • Recovery capabilities and more

All in all, sleep will affect every aspect that a bodybuilder must optimize; while some people may get by on less sleepthere are always expectations to the rulefor most, improving your sleep will be a simple, yet highly effective way to take your training and growth to the next level.

Sleep & Health

As already mentioned, sleep can affect many aspects of your body’s physiology and metabolism, from hormones, brain function, nutrient partitioning, insulin function, gut health and more.

Combined, these factors will literally make or break your health. If you optimize them, expect a long and healthy life, reduced disease risk and generally increased the quality of life every day. However, if you fail to focus on these areas, your chances of serious disease such as heart disease and diabetes are quickly increased. Additionally, decreased brain function can then extend into lifestyle choices, unhealthy eating habits and even business, personal, financial and family life.

When researching this directly, one analysis of over 10 studies found those that slept less than 6 hours per day night had drastically increased the chance of developing heart disease or stroke. Another study tested sleep’s immediate effects on markers of diabetes, such as blood sugar (carb) tolerance and insulin function. These 2 aspects are key for muscle growth, fat loss, and overall health. After just 6 days they witnessed some shocking results, showing those that had 4 hours of sleep per night started to develop symptoms of pre-diabetes!

We all know someone who can be completely different when they’ve had a bad night’s sleep; as you can now see, sleep literally affects all aspects of life, all day, every day. 

Master Your Sleep

Hopefully, you can now see the key importance of sleep. While in the 21st century it may not be possible to optimize sleep every night, you can take several steps to ensure you maximize both sleep quality and duration whenever possible.

Firstly, simply being more productive in the day can help you maximize sleep, allowing you to get more done in less time, which could simply help you add an extra hour of sleep per night. Remember, more sleep equals increased brain function and productivity. So, although you may sacrifice an hour less of your day, what you can achieve in those remaining 16 or so hours could be far greater.

Along with making lifestyle changes to allow for more sleep on a regular basis, here are some tips and tricks to improve sleep quality, duration and help you get to sleep faster.

1. Eliminate Blue Light:

Blue light is produced from electronic devices, such as mobiles, tablets, and laptops. Simply eliminating these 2 hours before bed will improve sleep quality, duration, and even hormone production.

2. Optimize Your Diet:

Simple steps to optimize your diet include not being too hungry or too full before you head to bed. Make sure you eat a decent meal a couple of hours before bed and finish it off with a scoop of KASEIN to feed your muscles while you sleep.

3. Take Supplements:

If you are really struggling with sleep, short-term use of supplements may provide you with some immediate help while you work on long-term solutions. Supplements such as 5-HTP, GABA, ZMA, and melatonin can all be beneficial.

4. Meditate:

Meditation and other relaxing techniques are a personal favorite of Kris and can help clear your mind, reduce anxiety, increase relaxation and drastically improve sleep quality.

5. Optimize Your Bedroom:

Although it may be less obvious, lots of factors in your bedroom environment will directly affect your sleep quality. Invest in your sleep and get a high-quality mattress, pillows, reduce lights (red t.v. light, street light), keep the room temperature cool, eliminate noise etc.

    Summary

    As you can see, sleep really is a vital factor in your health and physique. Arguably, sleep is just as important as factors such as diet and exercise - after all, good sleep will help you optimize everything else in your muscle-building regime.

    Remember, just one night of bad sleep will cause instant issues, so focus on a good night’s sleep every day and take the necessary steps to optimize it.

    References

    Cappuccio, F. P., Cooper, D., D'Elia, L., Strazzullo, P., & Miller, M. A. (2011). Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. European heart journal, 32(12), 1484-1492.

    Di Milia, L., Vandelanotte, C., & Duncan, M. J. (2013). The association between short sleep and obesity after controlling for demographic, lifestyle, work and health related factors. Sleep medicine, 14(4), 319-323.

    Van Cauter, E., Knutson, K., Leproult, R., & Spiegel, K. (2005). The impact of sleep deprivation on hormones and metabolism. Medscape Neurol Neurosurg, 7(1)

    Patel, S. R., & Hu, F. B. (2008). Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity, 16(3), 643-653. 

    Dinges, D. F., Pack, F., Williams, K., Gillen, K. A., Powell, J. W., Ott, G. E., ... & Pack, A. I. (1997). Cumulative sleepiness, mood disturbance and psychomotor vigilance performance decrements during aweek of sleep restricted to 4-5 hours per night. Sleep: Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine. 

    Spiegel, K., Tasali, E., Penev, P., & Van Cauter, E. (2004). Brief communication: Sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, elevated ghrelin levels, and increased hunger and appetite. Annals of internal medicine, 141(11), 846-850.

    Goldman, S. E., Stone, K. L., Ancoli-Israel, S., Blackwell, T., Ewing, S. K., Boudreau, R., ... & Newman, A. B. (2007). Poor sleep is associated with poorer physical performance and greater functional limitations in older women. SLEEP-NEW YORK THEN WESTCHESTER-, 30(10), 1317.

    Van Leeuwen, W., Hublin, C., Sallinen, M., Härmä, M., Hirvonen, A., & Porkka-Heiskanen, T. (2010). Prolonged sleep restriction affects glucose metabolism in healthy young men. International journal of endocrinology, 2010.

    Spiegel, K., Leproult, R., & Van Cauter, E. (1999). Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. The Lancet, 354(9188), 1435-1439.


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