It takes determination to make, keep, and achieve fitness goals. Every fitness journey consists of three pillars. Exercise and diet you probably already guessed but the third – sleep – is often forgotten. However, it’s an integral part of your fitness journey. Sleep regulates your appetite, provides time to strengthen and restore muscles, and keeps your motivation and emotions in check.
1. Appetite Stabilization
Adequate sleep boosts your ability to make better food choices by regulating your hormones. Whenever you get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep, your body releases more of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Consequently, you eat more calories than your body needs. The brain also releases less of the satiety hormone leptin, making you slower to recognize when you are full.
Those aren’t the only changes going on. A study conducted in 2016 and published in Sleep found that lack of sleep triggers the same area of the brain activated by marijuana. This area of the brain receives a “high” from foods high in fat and sugar. In the study, participants regularly chose snack foods with 50 percent more calories and nearly twice the fat than when they were sleep deprived. That increased craving intensity can be hard to resist when you’re tired.
2. Strength and Muscle Recovery
Sleep provides time for your body to rest and recover from a day’s worth of physical, mental, and emotional stress. It’s during this time that the body releases human growth hormone to trigger muscle repair. Without enough rest, the muscle tissue doesn’t spend enough time repairing or rebuilding itself and your chances of physical fatigue and injury go up.
3. Emotional Regulation and Motivation
Sleep stabilizes mood. The area of the brain that processes emotions goes into overdrive when you’re sleep deprived, especially in response to negative thoughts, feelings, and events. The logic center undergoes changes as well. Without enough rest, it doesn’t exert as much control over your emotional responses. This puts you at greater risk for increased irritability, anger, sadness, anxiety, and depression.
And, as it turns out, strength and motivation begin before you’ve even put on your exercise clothes. Adequate sleep also gives you the motivation to stay on target with your fitness goals. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that a full night’s rest increased motivation to exercise the next day.
Build Strong Sleep Habits
Better sleep starts with good sleep habits. Here a few simple tips to increase sleep and fitness success.
Check your comfort. A supportive mattress that’s breathable and supportive lets your body fully relax. The bedroom should also be cool, dark, and quiet.
Bedtime is a must. A bedtime that provides an opportunity for a full seven hours of sleep has to be a priority. Make sure you give yourself 15 to 30 minutes to fall asleep and be as consistent as possible.
Eat evenly spaced and timed meals. Predictability allows your brain to recognize and accommodate your preferred schedule. Regular meals are a clue your body uses to correctly time the sleep cycle.
Whole body health will help you achieve your fitness goals, and sleep sets the stage for the success of every step. Make it as much of a priority as exercise and diet and you’re well on your way to an active, energized lifestyle.
A GUESTPOST WRITTEN BY SAMANTHA KENT:
Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.