If you’re a current client of mine, in my FB group or you’ve been a fan of my page for even just a couple of months – you’ll know how big I am on sleep as a foundation for health, fitness, body composition and stress management.
I average a good 8 hours of sleep each night, with about 45% of this being deep sleep. It’s relatively easy for me to fall asleep and to wake up at the same time each day, yet the past few weeks has presented a challenge for that ritual in the shape of a little white kitty.
Between 2am and 5.30am EVERY night, he’s been waking us up multiple times. I don’t even know if he wants food, or he wants to play, or he’s just being an asshole – but it’s wearing both me and my partner down. I can sleep a bit longer if I need to on most days of the week, but my partner can’t, and his job is very stressful and so lack of sleep will affect his health, productivity and overall well-being far, far worse. (On another note, if you’re finding your cat being an asshole an issue, this Reddit thread gave a lot of great advice!)
So why exactly is it important to get more / better sleep?
Well, “they” say that nutrition is the primary driver of results, but I think that sleep comes even before that.
Sleep will affect not only your diet choices, your intensity levels for training, your recovery and capacity to hit higher volumes without overtraining, but sleep also affects your hormones, recovery and metabolism.
Lack of sleep reduces satiety hormones, increases hunger hormones, increases cortisol, affects your insulin response, can induce insulin resistance and contributes a significant amount of stress to numerous processes within your body.
Lack of sleep last night means that you’re going to be more likely to overeat today, less productive at work, more likely to accumulate bodyfat (particularly the visceral kind around your midsection that is metabolically active and induces all kinds of health issues), more likely to abuse caffeine (which prevents your sleep from improving) and more likely to suffer from mood disorders. It is hypothesised that during deep wave, REM sleep, we dream so that we can filter through the things we’ve been exposed to that day and to conduct a little bit of noctural problem solving. In studies where people have been prevented from reaching deep, dream state sleep, subjects have reported higher instances of stress, depression and anxiety.
Even if you’re just reading this article because you want to hack your sleep to get leaner – you have to appreciate that getting leaner involves reducing your stress response, managing cortisol levels and being in a healthy mental state to make good choices! So beyond just getting jacked and lean, sleep will affect each and every fitness and health marker you can think of – from your resting heart rate and blood pressure, to your conditioning levels, to retaining your muscle mass, to your mental health and your capacity to regenerate and repair tissues.
Sleep deprivation is linked to;
1. “Reduced amounts of sleep are associated with overweight and obese status. Interventions manipulating total sleep time could elucidate a cause-and-effect relationship between insufficient sleep and obesity.”
2. “Where chronic sleep restriction is common and food is widely available, changes in appetite regulatory hormones with sleep curtailment may contribute to obesity.”
3. “The neuroendocrine regulation of appetite and food intake appears to be influenced by sleep duration, and sleep restriction may favor the development of obesity.”
Diabetes and insulin resistance
1. “Chronic sleep loss, behavioral or sleep disorder related, may represent a novel risk factor for weight gain, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes.”
2. ” A sleep duration of 6 hours or less or 9 hours or more is associated with increased prevalence of diabetes mellitis and impaired glucose tolerance. Because this effect was present in subjects without insomnia, voluntary sleep restriction may contribute to the large public health burden of DM.”
3. “Sleep restriction results in metabolic and endocrine alterations, including decreased glucose tolerance, decreased insulin sensitivity, increased evening concentrations of cortisol, increased levels of ghrelin, decreased levels of leptin and increased hunger and appetite.”
4. “The consequences of disruption to the circadian system and sleep are profound and include myriad metabolic ramifications, some of which may be compounded by adverse effects on dietary choices. If not addressed, the deleterious effects of such disruption will continue to cause widespread health problems; therefore, implementation of the numerous behavioral and pharmaceutical interventions that can help restore circadian system alignment and enhance sleep will be important.”
Stress, blood pressure, strokes and cardiometabolic risks
2. “Chronic sleep deprivation that impair brain function and contribute to allostatic load throughout the body. Allostatic load refers to the cumulative wear and tear on body systems caused by too much stress and/or inefficient management of the systems that promote adaptation through allostatis.”
Depression & cognitive function
1. ” There was an association between becoming chronically sleep deprived and becoming depressed”
2. “Both these sleep reduction groups, though, did show decrements on the FEFT, which we interpret in terms of dearousal increasing distractibility, which the sleep‐reduced subjects could not overcome with effort.”
3. “Sleep deprivation is a chronic stressor and that the resulting allostatic load can contribute to cognitive problems, which can, in turn, further exacerbate pathways that lead to disease.”
4. “Sleep loss causes impairments in cognitive performance and simulated driving and induces sleepiness, fatigue and mood changes.”
5. 1. https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad132132?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Journal_of_Alzheimer%25E2%2580%2599s_Disease_TrendMD_0
Cortisol, inflammation and immune system dysfunction
1. “Increases in pro-inflammatory cytokines following sleep loss could promote immune system dysfunction”
2. “A significant decrease following the sleep condition was noted for cortisol concentration immediately after and 1 hour postexercise.”
3. ” We found that a change in the sleep-wake cycle is often one of the first responses to acute inflammation and infection and that the reciprocal effect of sleep on the immune system in acute states is often protective and restorative.”
1. “Sleep debt decreases the activity of protein synthesis pathways and increases the activity of degradation pathways, favoring the loss of muscle mass and thus hindering muscle recovery after damage induced by exercise, injuries and certain conditions associated with muscle atrophy, such as sarcopenia and cachexia.”
2. “Inadequate sleep impairs maximal muscle strength in compound movements when performed without specific interventions designed to increase motivation”
1. “These data demonstrate that, during sleep, the computational power of the central nervous system, including all cortical areas, is engaged in restoration of visceral systems. Thus, the general mechanism of the interaction between quality of sleep and health became clear.”
2. “Sleep disturbances such as sleep deprivation have been shown to up regulate these inflammatory cytokines. Alterations in these cytokine levels have been demonstrated in certain gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, gastro-esophageal reflux, liver disorders and colorectal cancer.”
Some changes you can make today, that will have a positive outcome on your sleep;
Turn off your screens
Problem solver: Have a specific time each night where all electronic devices are turned off. I would suggest this occurs around 2-3 hours prior to the time you want to go to sleep. DO NOT have your television in your bedroom, ever.
Keep your room dark and cool
Get some early morning sunlight
If you generally need help to let go and stop caring about stupid shit, regardless of the time of day, Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is spectacular.
Don’t abuse food or caffeine
Using things like Valerian tea within the hour before bed can also help. Oh – and if you’re prone to getting up to pee late at night, don’t risk peeing yourself just because you smashed a shitload of water in the hours before you’re due to lie down. #commonsense
Make a bedtime ritual
2 – Have a warm shower
You can also use a particular scent, music style or other sense-based trigger to get you in the mood for sleep. Burning a particular incense or oil, using a room perfume or using a scented fabric softener for your sheets can help your brain wind down and recognise when it’s time for shut eye. Make sure the only time you use it is in the hour or so before bed.
Problem solver: Create a daily ritual that you use to get you in the mood to sleep. Avoid screen time and go to bed around the same time each day. Do something only mildly stimulating before turning the lights out.
Some further reading and listening;
Need help to un-fuck your sleep?
All coaching clients will be assessed for their sleep quality and duration, and provided with recommendations specific to their needs for how to improve and facilitate a better nights sleep.
Drop a coaching enquiry to me at email@example.com