By MJ and Gabrielle Neuhaus-Harsh
We all know what it is like to have a bad night of sleep, but to still have a million things to accomplish the next day. It’s not fun, is it? Sleep can improve concentration, productivity, and provide overall feelings of being recharged. We are going to discuss how sleep quality affects weight loss and athletic performance. It is important to note that once the weight has been lost, these habits and lifestyle changes must be maintained to keep the weight off and/or continue improving performance.
Studies show the risk of obesity rises if you are getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night. Most people need between 6 and 9 hours each night to feel fully rested. There is a cascade of negative effects that begin after even just one day with inadequate sleep. It has been found to trigger increased levels of ghrelin, and decreased levels of leptin, leading to increased hunger and appetite. This makes overeating more likely, especially since more time awake creates increased opportunities to eat. Decreased inhibitions and self-control can also effect your ability to regular hunger and fullness feelings, so it becomes easier to overeat at meal times. With overeating, and/or eating late at night, sleep is likely to be negatively effected, which will continue this vicious cycle.
Like we mentioned before, for optimal performance and overall health, most adults require somewhere between 6 and 9 hours of sleep per night, and this needs to be quality sleep. Athletes often need more sleep than those who are moderately active. Many elite athletes get a minimum of 8 hours per night, and many shoot for 9 to 10 hours. Deep sleep is restorative. Your body replenishes its energy, and repairs cells, tissues, and muscles. You need this phase to feel awake and refreshed the next day.
Poor quality and quantity of sleep lead to several negative effects in any person. Mentally, sleep deprivation reduces the ability to react quickly and think clearly. People who are sleep deprived are more likely to make poor decisions and take risks. A lack of sleep also increases irritability and risk for anxiety and depression. Physically, a lack of sleep increases the risk for many medical concerns, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and stroke.
Tips to Improve Sleep
#1: Increase bright light exposure during the day
Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm. It affects your brain, body, and hormones, helping you stay awake and telling your body when it’s time to sleep. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration.
#2: Reduce blue light exposure before bed
Exposure to light during the day is beneficial, but nighttime light exposure has the opposite effect. Again, this is due to its effect on your circadian rhythm, tricking your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. This reduces hormones like melatonin, which help you relax and get deep sleep.
#3: Do not consume caffeine late in the day
A single dose can enhance focus, energy, and sports performance. Caffeine can stay elevated in your blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, drinking large amounts of coffee after 3–4 p.m. is not recommended, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine or have trouble sleeping.
#4: Try to sleep and wake at consistent times
A single dose can enhance focus, energy, and sports performance. Caffeine can stay elevated in your blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, drinking large amounts of coffee after 3–4 p.m. is not recommended, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine or have trouble sleeping. Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset. Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can benefit long-term sleep quality. Even if your schedule fluctuates, still try to create consistency with your sleep.
#5: Do not eat a large meal before bed
Eating a large meal before bed can leave you feeling full and uncomfortable, which will make it difficult to fall asleep. Carbohydrates will also be quicker to elevate your blood sugar when compared to proteins and fats, so it is likely to wake you up when your body breaks them down into glucose. If you are going to eat before bed, we recommend a light meal of proteins and fats, not too many carbohydrates.