Sleep Matters: How Sleep Impacts Fat Loss, Health & Success In Life

Lifescape

Oct 30
sleep_fat_loss

Is sleep deprivation making you fatter?

What about the implications for gaining muscle?

Can lack of sleep affect male fertility?

If you’re serious about shedding weight or optimising your health and success – sleep needs to be a priority. Think about it – sleep must be important – we spend one third of our lives asleep!

Having a bad night’s sleep every few weeks happens to us all, but consistently not getting enough shut-eye leads to a boat-load of problems all of which you’ll learn about in this article.

Just one week of poor sleep can lead to this cascade of problems – and it’s a vicious circle. Feeling stressed is a particularly common one – how easy is to sleep when you’re feeling anxious?

Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together
~Thomas Dekker

What you’re gonna learn

  • Why you need to sleep.
  • How a lack of sleep hinders your fat loss and muscle building goals
  • How much sleep you need.
  • 28 hacks to help optimise your sleep.

Why Do You Sleep?

Scientists have been trying to answer this question for decades, but despite all the research, they’ve still failed to reach a conclusive answer.

The long-held believe that sleep serves to restore and repair the body is now backed by research. [1] The most striking being: animals deprived entirely of sleep lose all immune function and die in just a matter of weeks.

sleep_weight_loss

This makes sense as we know that many major restorative functions like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep.

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise
~ Benjamin Franklin

How Much sleep do you need?

The research is pretty solid here – experts agree that adults do best with between six (as an absolute minimum) and nine hours per night.

Clearly, like many aspects of health and wellbeing, there is no “one size fits all.” You won’t go far wrong, however, if you lean towards the 7-9 hours range given our fast-paced lifestyle in the West.

What happens if you don’t get enough?

Stress

Sleep deprivation is straight-up stressful – plain and simple. [2] The knock-on effects of stress just aren’t worth such a simple thing to remedy.

Mood

Lack of sleep is directly linked to the incidence of depression, which is bad enough in it’s own right.[3] But given the fact that food is often used to self-medicate to feel better, can you see the problem here. Yea – another reason to keep sleep on point!

90% of depression sufferers complain about sleep quality [4]
sleep_deprivation_stress

Brain Fog

Probably the most obvious effect of sleep deprivation is the fact your brain just doesn’t work and productivity tanks. [5] When decision-making skills are compromised – it’s hello convenient junk food and overeating.

Immune System

If you don’t look after you immune system, I think you would agree that your view of life from a sick bed isn’t going to be great. [6]

Sleep less than seven hours and you’re almost three times more likely to develop a cold! [7]

Fertility

Research has shown that less than six hours of sleep on a regular basis, and interestingly enough, more than nine hours can result in reduced fertility rates. [8] And if that’s not bad enough – testosterone gets slammed as well! [9]

Five hours of sleep for one-week has been shown to decrease testosterone levels in healthy young men by 15%.

Yea … yea, lack of sleep is bad for my health blah, blah ... nothing new here.

Fair enough, but what if I told you that those late-night Netflix sessions are directly impacting on your ability to lose fat and build muscle?

Ah, got your attention now, thought so …

Sleep, Fat Loss & Muscle

The literature on how sleep directly screws with your efforts to lose fat is plentiful. [10] It amazes me when dudes nail their training and nutrition, but forget about this massive part of the puzzle.

Look I get it, it’s not very sexy and not as exciting as a new exercise routine or food plan, but make no mistake: Lack of sleep directly screws with your goals of getting a hotter bod.

Lack of sleep directly screws with your goals of getting a hotter bod.! #Sleep #BodyPhi

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There is a direct relationship between sleep loss and obesity – simply put, the shorter the sleep the greater the obesity. A 13-year study of nearly 500 adults found that those who slept less than six hours per night were seven and a half times more likely to be overweight. [11] That's crazy!

How on earth does a lack of sleep cause you to gain fat? Let me explain:It’s all to do with your hunger hormones; leptin and grehlin. Leptin is a hormone released by your body that says you are full, it is the satiety hormone and helps regulate appetite and energy balance by inhibiting hunger.

Grehlin on the other hand does the exact opposite, it’s role is to increase appetite. Under normal circumstances, these hormones “talk” to one another and cause you to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.

sleep_overeating_body_fat

However, once sleep deprivation is brought into the mix, you mess with these two hormones massively. Even short-term sleep deprivation causes grehlin (your hunger hormone) to shoot through the roof causing you to overeat, and leptin (your “I’m full” hormone) to decrease, again causing you to overeat. [12]

Do you think you're going to be very compliment to your fat loss plan if hunger is through the roof? No chance.

Get this, not only are you hungrier due to a lack of sleep, you are more likely to naturally reach for those high calorie, junk type foods. [13]

Think about it … your brain isn’t working properly, willpower is out the window and you're knackered – what are you going to reach for at lunch? A healthy chicken salad that takes some preparation time, or a quick sandwich, packet of crisps and a donut?

Of course you will pick the quicker option, despite it being far unhealthier– you're whole Disciple = Freedom concept is now non-existent.

A good laugh and a long nap are the best cures in the doctor’s book ~ Irish Proverb

So what about muscle?

sleep_exercise_muscle_gain

I really don’t have good news here guys. Lack of sleep increases your stress hormone, cortisol. Once in a while, this isn't a problem, but long-term, it is.

Elevated cortisol suppresses the release of testosterone and IGF-1 – two hormones critical for the building and maintenance of muscle mass.

Cliff notes: a lack of sleep will wreck your muscle gains. [14]

So what do you do?

I know this makes for pretty grim reading so far, but I want you to know that as a father with a 12-week-old baby boy, I can’t remember the last time I got a solid eight hours of sleep.

And whilst I fully acknowledge it’s best for your health and physique to get a solid amount of sleep every night, if this is not possible due to your job, family or social commitments, I recommend catching up on some of that sleep debt on the weekend.

Evidence supports the fact you can catch up with your poor sleep during the week and potentially reverse some of the negative effects. [15]

28 Secrets To Getting Better Sleep

Clearly, sleepless nights come with the territory of being a dad. I do have some answers though – the following tips help me function properly, especially in the less optimal periods of life.

#1 Bed Basics

Before going any further – sort out your bed. You should change your mattress every 5–8 years for optimal sleep quality. Research shows your pillow and mattress can massively affect the quality of your sleep. [16]

A good mattress can improved sleep quality by 60%!

#2 Switch Everything Off

No phones, laptops, TV’s for at least 30 minutes before bed, if you can go for longer – even better. These devices emit blue light, which signals your brain that it is still daytime and stops you producing melatonin – the hormonal regulator for your sleep/wake cycles.

#3 Digital Sunset

If you must be on your devices – f.lux is a free app for your PC or Mac, which automatically cancels blue light in sync with the sun setting. The newest iPhones have a built-in setting and you can check out android versions here.

#4 Magnesium

Although supplements in general come way down the totem pole of where to place your efforts when it comes to creating an awesome BodyPhi™ lifestyle – I must say magnesium supplementation has been an absolute game-changer for me over the past year or so.

sleep_magnesium_supplement

Magnesium improves the quality of your sleep by calming both your nerves and your muscles. [17] I notice a big difference in when I take it and when I do not. I recommend 400 mg of magnesium citrate about half an hour before bed. A fairly cheap investment for a potentially large benefit.

#5 Easy On The Java

I’m the biggest coffee lover out there. No seriously, I would even go as far as to say I’m a coffee snob and the thought of a spoon of instant coffee from the tin makes me shudder.

Saying all this, even I have a cap on caffeine intake, in terms of daily amount but also time of day. After 5pm I don’t consume any caffeinated products and highly suggest you don’t either.

Caffeine has a half life for most people for up to five hours meaning it doesn't leave your system for that amount of time. [18] So even if you have a coffee at say 6:30pm, but don’t get to bed until 10pm, more than likely it’ll still be in your system and keep you up.

I have actually found a decaf espresso (yes, I know shock/horror) to be quite the tool for blunting hunger post dinner and stopping mindless munching. [19]

Sleep is the best meditation ~ Dalai Lama

#6 Black Out

Light is the single biggest factor that affects your sleep cycle. The darker your bedroom the better you’ll sleep. Even light from digital clocks and street light from windows can keep you awake. Consider using a sleep mask or black-out curtains to optimise the darkness.

sleep_man_mask

#7 Chill Out

Studies show that temperatures around 70°F or 20°C seem to be best for optimal sleep for most guys. [20] Test different temperatures out for yourself to find what works best for you.

Cotton bedding is also the coolest option for bedding, especially in the summer when ambient temperatures are higher and it’s more difficult to sleep.

#8 Double Up

As sleeping temperature is such a personal preference, you may want to consider having separate bedding if you’re sleeping partner has different needs. Also perfect if one of you usually ends up hogging the duvet.

#9 Silence

We’ve all been there – noisy neighbours, dogs barking or loud traffic keeping us awake at night. Investing in earplugs can be a game-changer if you’re a light sleeper and suffer from noise interrupting your sleep.

#10 Declutter

If there’s only one space that you keep clutter free, make it the bedroom. Messy spaces equals stress for your brain – lots of decisions left unmade. Keep your sleeping environment as minimal as possible and reserve it for just two activities – sex and sleep!

Make a decision and clear the clutter.

#11 Brain Dump

sleep_brain_fog_mindset

In the same way that physical clutter causes mental stress, your mental todo list can keep you awake too. Take five minutes before bed to write down stuff that’s on your mind so you don’t have it cluttering your head before sleep.

#12 Keep Calm

Being mentally relaxed prior to sleep is crucial if you’re going to fall asleep effortlessly. Avoid consuming content that stimulates you rather than relaxes you, like horror movies, news reports, reading emails scrolling through social media.

Opt for relaxing activities such as reading, listening to music or just enjoying the company of a loved one.

#13 Breathe

Active techniques, such as breathing exercises can be super helpful to calm a busy mind and help you fall asleep faster. Try this easy breathing exercise …

Ten deep breaths: Inhale to a count of three, hold your breath for a count of three, exhale for three. It takes two minutes. Simple!

#14 Visualise

As I’ve mentioned in my Think Yourself Lean article the power of visualisation is such an underrated tool. Spending a few minutes before bed visualising the content of your goal card is the perfect way to end your day and boost success the following morning.

#15 Rethink Drink

This one’s simple guys. Drinking a ton of water before bed and you're going to need to get up at night. Not ideal if we are looking for that deep, restorative sleep.

#16 Good Morning

There’s nothing worse than being jarred out of sleep by a harsh alarm. Investing in an alarm that ramps up the intensity over a period of time is a great solution – with a light alarm being the ultimate in natural wake-up tech.

sleep_morning_alarm_sunlight

Your sleep cycles repeat in roughly 90-minute cycles, with the end of a cycle being the best time to wake. So, with 7–9 hours of sleep being optimal, if you were to fall asleep at about 10pm your body will wake perfectly at 6.30–7.30am – that’s about five 90-minute cycles.

Combine this with gradual light or even the vibration of your FitBit to trigger full wakefulness and you’ve got the perfect wake-up recipe.

#17 Move More

Activity is one of the best evidence-based ways to boost the quality of your sleep – with morning movement being super effective. [21] I can’t overstate the benefits of an active lifestyle for every aspect of your life.

#18 Sunlight

Being active outside in the morning sunshine is an absolute killer way to not only rack up movement points, but also sync your body with the sun. This really helps your sleep cycle – when the sun goes down you’ll be ready to wind down too.

Exposure to two hours of bright light during the day can improve your sleep efficiency by 80%. [22]

#19 High Intensity

For best quality sleep, keep the high-intensity stuff for earlier in the day where possible. You can still keep up your activity levels, however make it more mindful, like walks in nature or relaxing hobbies like yoga or Tai Chi.

sleep_evening_yoga

#20 Keeping It Real

The more junk-food in your food plan the worse your sleep is going be. Eating too many low-fiber, high-saturated-fat and high-sugar foods is associated with lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals. [23]

Aim for 80–90% of your fuel needs to come from whole, minimally processed foods and you’ll be primed for great sleep.

#21 Same Old

Consistency is key in all aspects of life a sleep is no exception. Keeping to the same bedtime and wake-up schedule, even on the weekend is the best way to guarantee a good night’s sleep due to optimising the body’s circadian rhythm. [24]

#22 Nap Time

While “power naps” can be beneficial, naps longer than 20 minutes can disrupt your body clock leading to poor sleep at night.

For the ultimate power nap drink an espresso immediately before napping for 20 minutes in the early afternoon. Caffeine takes 20 minutes to kick in so you wake up on a high.

NASA states that "an afternoon nap increases productivity by 35% and decision-making ability by up to 50%."

#23 In Hot Water

Hot showers or baths have excellent sedative effects before hitting the sack. [25] If you don’t fancy the hassle of running a bath, a simple foot soak has been shown to have the same effects. [26]

sleep_bath_epsom_salts

#24 Epsom Salts

To double up on the sleep promoting benefits of heat before bed, try adding Epsom salts to the water. These natural salts are rich in magnesium – an awesome mineral to take orally, but also effective when absorbed through your skin

#25 Stress Less

How you manage your daytime stress levels has a massive impact on how you sleep at night. Cortisol, the stress hormone, needs to drop throughout the day to a low in the evening in preparation for sleep.

If it’s still high, you’re not gonna sleep well – simple as that. Bottom line: manage your stress during the day or your sleep will suffer.

#26 Mmmm Massage

Who doesn’t love a relaxing body or foot massage? Ideally it’s great to zone out and let someone else put in the effort, but rubbing some lavender aromatherapy oil or magnesium oil can work a treat too. [27]

#27 Less Booze

Even though the occasional night cap has been found to improve sleep, alcohol in excessive amounts has been found to screw with your sleeping patterns. [28]

Easy on the booze if you're trying to optimise your sleep.

#28 Last Meal

This point is highly individual and you need to find out what works best for you. For some, eating a large meal immediately before bed can negatively impact sleep.

If this is you, I’d still recommend a carb-heavy based meal eaten a few hours prior to sleep. This produces the best results due to the positive effects on the feel-good brain chemical – dopamine.

No … carbs after 6pm don’t make you fat. [29]

IN A NUTSHELL

Sleep is as vital to life as eating and breathing

Sleep deprivation can result in:

• Elevated stress levels
• Depression
• Brain fog
• Weakened immunity
• Reduced fertility & testosterone

Get less than six hours a night and you’re seven and a half times more likely to be overweight

Lack of sleep wrecks muscle gains

Aim for 7–9 hours a night for an optimal lifestyle

References