The major impact of sleep on our health
When it comes to health, the importance of sleep is often overlooked. Yet it has a major impact on our bodies and our functioning. We can’t survive without sleep!
A lack of sleep is associated with a number of health problems, such as..:
- A state of inflammation
- Weight gain (or difficulty losing weight)
- Disruption of insulin signaling
- Lower testosterone levels
- Cardiovascular risks
The interaction between sleep, diet, and performance
People who have difficulty achieving their goals (health, performance, body composition, etc.), despite having a near-perfect diet and training, often don’t get enough sleep. It’s this lack of sleep that prevents them from making progress.
Diet and sleep are interrelated: on the one hand, a better diet can help us sleep better, and on the other, better sleep helps us make better food choices.
The impact of sleep deprivation on our food choices
Here’s how a lack of sleep (or poor quality sleep) impacts our eating habits :
- Hunger increases (via greater production of ghrelin, the hunger hormone)
- Satiety is reduced: you have to eat more before you feel full (via reduced production of the hormone leptin).
- Food tastes better: greater risk of overindulgence (via increased endocannabinoids)
- Less time sleeping… means more time eating
- The body craves quick energy (despite the fact that its real need is to sleep), so it directs our cravings towards foods that contain lots of calories, often rich in sugars and fats
Influence of sleep on body composition
And it doesn’t stop there. As well as making us eat more (up to 300 kcal / d more than people who get enough sleep), lack of sleep influences our body composition via :
- An increase in cortisol, the stress hormone. When cortisol is chronically elevated, it encourages fat storage (especially in the abdomen).
- Reduced growth hormone (GH), the key to muscle mass gain
- Decrease in TSH, the thyroid-stimulating hormone important for basal metabolic rate (calories burned every day)
Tips to improve the quality of your sleep
So now you know that sleep is crucial to good health. Ideally, adults should aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
5 tips for a better night’s sleep:
- Keep room temperature between 17 and 21 degrees Celsius (62 to 70 Fahrenheit)
- Avoid artificial light (computer screen, television, cell phone, etc.) at least 1 hour before bedtime.
- Being active during the day
- Take a magnesium supplement (especially for athletes, since a lot is lost through sweat).
- Take an evening snack rich in tryptophan* (e.g. pumpkin seeds, Greek yogurt with honey, oatmeal with cocoa, nuts).
*Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, enables the synthesis of two hormones contributing to good quality sleep: serotonin and melatonin. It is found in some supplements, but also in bananas, soy, cocoa, nuts, meats, eggs, and dairy products. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid for good sleep.
I hope you found it all useful. On that note, good night!