Many people come to me looking for help with fine tuning their nutrition to reach their goals, whether it be weight loss or to boost performance. Of course nutrition is important but most people are actually doing a pretty decent job before starting with me. 99 times out of 100 the biggest problem that I actually see is horrible sleep patterns. Unfortunately, no amount of paleo eating, supplement taking, crossfit doing is going to get you to your goals is your sleep sucks. Here’s why…
1) People who sleep less than 6 hours a night have elevated markers of inflammation in their blood stream. If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that inflammation and increased body fat are closely related.
2) Studies have shown that people on calorie restricted diets lose FAT when they sleep the appropriate amount, but lose muscle mass when they under sleep… Less muscle equals a lower metabolism usually. Also, the same study shows that people who didn’t sleep enough were hungrier throughout the day. Makes sense since the part of the brain that controls sleep also influences metabolism. Question: Do you find you make poorer food choices when you’re overly tired? Thought so…
3) Football, tennis and swimmers were all studied for the effects of sleep on performance. The athletes that slept more (~10 hours) all increased their sprint times compared to the athletes that did not.
4) Some biochemistry and physiology for you: Testosterone and growth hormone are elevated when we sleep and these two hormones are critical to have appropriate recovery from your workouts.
Alright, I think you get the point. Lets look at some things to try to do and things to try and avoid to improve our sleep:
1) A little drink before bed might help you fall asleep but alcohol will disrupt the quality of your sleep as the body as after processing all the alcohol, your brain will switch from deep sleep into REM sleep. REM sleep is MUCH easier to wake from so you’re more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.
2) Try to avoid raising your body temperature too much before going to bed.
3) You’ve got to try and deplug from the phone, laptop, etc for 30-60 minutes before going to sleep. The lighting from the screens of these electronics can impact your brains ability to sense its internal clock of when to wake and sleep.
4) Last but not least, you’ve got to avoid caffeine in the afternoon if you’re going to sleep appropriately.