Eating nutritious food and physical movement are, without a doubt, two of the most important things we can do to take care of ourselves. But a third element is just as important and intricately linked to our overall wellness: high-quality sleep. Unfortunately, sleep can quickly drop to the bottom of the priority list in our busy and often overscheduled lives. And while a little tiredness may not seem like a big deal, it can enormously impact our efforts to eat well, lose weight, gain muscle strength, and so much more. Keep reading for a deeper understanding of the impact of sleep on our wellness.
Sleep isn’t just for dreaming
Sleep services just about every aspect of our bodies physically, physiologically, and mentally. Think about that mental fog you feel when you’re short on sleep or how much more you crave sweets or carbs. That’s because when we sleep, we give our body and brain the time they need to restore and recover, affecting nearly every tissue in the body. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep, yet almost one-third of Americans get less than that. So what’s the big deal? Well, sleep deprivation increases the risk of health conditions like heart disease, obesity, and stroke, and sleep deprivation over time can affect concentration and other cognitive functions.
Additionally, sleep deprivation affects the body’s release of two neurotransmitters, ghrelin and leptin, which signal to the brain when to consume calories. Without sufficient sleep, people tend to overeat and are drawn toward higher-calorie food. And chronic sleep loss has been linked to a larger waist circumference. In short, lack of sleep can make you hungrier for less healthy food.
And when it comes to exercise, sleep plays just as critical of a role as it does for brain function and nutritious eating. Sleep is vital to having the energy and motivation to exercise, and it also gives our muscle tissue time to rest and recover in between workouts. And exercising on too little sleep can actually be dangerous, with increased sports injuries reported in those who are sleep deprived.
It’s a two-way street
Exercise, nutrition, and sleep are so intertwined that it’s important to remember the impact of sleep on our bodies and what we eat and do on our sleep. Here are a few habits to consider that can improve your sleep and, thereby, your ability to eat well and move your body:
- Limit caffeine consumption. If you drink coffee, energy drinks, or soda, be aware of the stimulating effects of caffeine, which can keep you up at night. You don’t have to give up your daily cup of joe but try to limit caffeine to early in the day.
- Don’t eat large meals late at night. Give your body time to digest after eating large meals and before sleeping. Eating too close to bedtime can disrupt our body’s circadian rhythm. Plus, our insulin resistance increases at night, which means late-night calories are stored as fat while we sleep instead of being burned throughout the day.
- Move your body. While guidance on what type of exercise to do for improved sleep can vary from person to person, research shows that physical movement can help us get better sleep. However, just like eating and drinking caffeine, try not to exercise too close to bedtime as the exertion could keep you up.
While balancing the many demands of daily life, it can be tempting to prioritize one wellness activity over another. However, that can be a herculean task, given the interconnectedness of sleep, nutrition, and exercise. But if you find yourself struggling to keep up with any aspect of your wellness, including sleep, consider reaching out to a medical professional who can offer personalized recommendations that consider your personal history, lifestyle, and goals.
And if you have specific fitness or nutrition goals, get in touch with us. Our team of certified trainers and dieticians is ready to support you on your journey.