The importance of sleep on fat loss and overall health






I bet you have heard these “sayings” a time or two. People who preach about working hard and putting in your time and sleeping is for the weak. Well, that is false. Sleep is 100% necessary not only for normal daily function, but also for fat loss and overall health of your body. If you are needing 3-4 cups of coffee a day (or caffeine of any sort) then you are already in a bad place. Sleep is essential for the body to reach a point of homeostasis and “reset” before the daily stressors start up again. Let’s take a closer look the importance of sleep for fat loss and overall health!

How does sleep affect the body

Why is it that sleep is always the first thing to go when we are pressed for time? We think of sleep as some sort of luxury, like we are LUCKY to get 8 hours of sleep, when in reality we should be getting 8 hours of sleep regardless. The importance of sleep goes far beyond just “not feeling tired”.

There are two different “types” of sleep we get; NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement). About 75-80% of our sleep is in the NREM cycle. NREM is the deepest sleep we get and is essential for transferring short term memories to long term memories and is the point when our growth hormone release is highest (which is important for cell renewal and repair). REM sleep is when we have rapid eye movement and when we do most of our dreaming. It is also when we have the most movement, activity, rapid heart rate and faster breathing. Some scientists go as far to say that REM sleep is a place for our brain to deal with emotional situations we might not encounter on a daily basis. We do still dream when we are in an NREM cycle; these dreams are usually concept-based and REM dreams are more emotional-based.

There are actually 5 different phases of sleep cycles we go through, and we dream about 3-5 times. These cycles start off “dozing off” and then slowly start to get deeper and deeper into sleep and our brain signals start to slow down. These cycles tend to start over every 90-110 minutes.

Sleep is important for people of all ages as it is like a “reset”. Imagine your phone. You plug your phone in to charge every night. If you don’t plug it in, it starts to slow down and eventually it just shuts off and you cannot use it until you charge it up again. The same goes for our bodies. If we do not get enough sleep, we cannot fully function to the best of our ability. We also cannot complete all of the body process’ that occur when we sleep like muscle repair, cell regeneration, hormone releases and more!

Sleep and fat loss

Sleep is directly correlated to metabolism/hormone health. If you are not getting adequate sleep (8 hours a night), your body is automatically going to down regulate your hormones and leave you in a tornado of imbalances and issues. What would you HONESTLY say if I asked you how much sleep you got at night? For me, it’s a no brainer. I will actually sacrifice going and doing events to make sure I get to sleep. And thats with getting up at 5:30am everyday, too. Most people these days get about 5.5 hours of sleep per night. That is significantly less than what is required. And when I say required I don’t just mean some board or group pulled the number out of their a**. I mean there is research and studies to back this.

A research study published by Annals of Internal Medicine looked at two groups of individuals with the same training routine and calorie intake and altered their sleep schedules. One group slept for 5.5 hours per night while the other slept for 8.5. The results were intense! The group with more sleep actually lost more fat than the group who slept less. Not to mention those who slept less actually lost 60% more muscle than those who slept more (this is because the body wanted to preserve the fat for energy and got rid of the muscle)!

So, the truth is,  we all think its the moving and exercising that burns more fat, but really it is when we are in a state of homeostasis. This is also because if we get less sleep, our metabolism is down-regulated. Meaning it slows down during the day to preserve energy. This also means that individuals who sleep less have a tendency to create more of the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin. This hormone sends a signal to the brain that you are hungry, when in reality, you are not. This causes individuals who sleep less to actually OVER EAT and, not to mention, they tend to crave foods that are not great for our bodies like processed carbohydrates and fats.

Sleep and over all health

Sleep is not only important for fat loss and reaching our fitness goals, but it is also important for overall health! Researchers are now saying that getting enough high-quality sleep is just as important on health as a good diet and exercise program.

We all know that chronic (serious) diseases are formed overtime. We do not just wake up one day with heart disease or obesity, they are caused by poor habits adding up over time. I am a HUGE advocate of diet and lifestyle changes being NUMBER ONE importance when it comes to decreasing chronic disease and healthcare costs. Just because something you eat today doesn’t feel like it is harming you, adding that up day after day for a course of multiple years is where we run into problems.

Studies on insufficient sleep have been linked to health concerns like:

Obesity (since we talked about fat loss above)

◊ Diabetes (because lack of sleep can cause an imbalance in hormones and lead to insulin sensitivity/resistance)

◊ Cardiovascular disease/Hypertension/Heart Attack (these can be caused by the body not having enough time to “reset” and therefore leading to extra stress on the body)

◊ Immune function (lack of sleep has been shown to cause inflammation and decrease the ability to resist infection) This also goes hand in hand with getting sick more frequently.

◊ Hormone health (lack of sleep can cause hormone issues, especially adrenal fatigue)

Foods to promote sleep or cause sleep disturbances

Yes, there are foods that can help promote sleep or disrupt your sleep if consumed to late at night!

Foods that promote sleep:

◊ Almonds and walnuts

◊ Cottage cheese

◊ Raspberries

◊ Chamomile tea

◊ Cherries, Bananas, Oranges

◊ Warm Milk

◊ Valarian root

Foods that disrupt sleep:

◊ Caffeine

◊ Ginger

◊ Cruciferous vegetables (insoluble fiber that sits in your stomach long after eating)

◊ Cured meats and aged cheeses

◊ Spicy foods

◊ Foods high in trans fat

Refined carbohydrates

Moral of the story….SLEEP IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL BODY FUNCTIONS AND ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE. Don’t diminish it. Don’t give it up. Don’t deprive yourself. Sleep is the foundation of our health!



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author: Haley Perry