Sleep Is Just As Important As Nutrition And Exercise
No longer can we just think of losing fat, performing better and living longer without considering sleep as a massive influencer. Since the 2000’s sleep was only just starting to be considered something of influence and research on the topic is still in its infancy but the results so far are pretty dramatic.
Sleep quality, quantity or commonly known as sleep hygiene is a predictor of diseases, tissue changes and psychological functionality.
Sleep is known to have impacts on our decision-making skills and attentive abilities during tasks. In fact, the primary reason for fatigue specific transportation incidents is attention failure. Not only is our attention diminished with reduced sleep but our ability to process emotional stimulus is impaired. Our brain's ability to determine a positive or negative stimulus and have an appropriate response to that stimulus is integral for our daily interactions with friends, family, our environment and work. With impaired sleep, our ability to react to positive stimulus is reduced so as to not perceive that it is in fact as positive as it is. Then inversely our perception of a negative stimulus is enhanced, and we perceive the same stimulus at an even higher magnitude than before resulting in a more negative response.
So with that in mind, just think of the impacts that this is likely to have on your ability to make good decisions around food choices, exercise, and lifestyle decisions. I mean the outlook is pretty grim.
Not only is the psychological impacts something to worry about, but there are also physiological ones that are impaired.
A stark example of the difference from Nedeltcheva et al found in just 2 hours of sleeping time difference between two tested groups highlights how much this is likely to impact you. Both groups ate a Calorie Deficit diet for 14 days and the difference in bedtime was 8.5 hours to 5.5 hours (2 hours difference in measured sleep time). Both groups lost almost the same amount of weight. Yet the group in the sleep-restricted arm lost 25% fat mass compared to the control group who lost 55% of fat mass.
Yeah, go figure. That is a massive difference and just 2 weeks of slightly impaired sleep reduced down the ability of the body to utilise one type of fuel. So think about how this could impact over a year or a lifetime.
With both of the psychological and the physiological impacts of sleep restriction in mind imagine a scenario where you are trying to lose weight. You have dropped calories, increased your exercise and found that your body isn’t losing at the same rate as would be expected. You feel hungry, lethargic and tired that you’re doing all this work and nothing seems to be improving. Without knowing to focus on improving some sleep you’re left with two options if you wish to continue. Reduce calories further or increase exercise higher. Not to say that this isn’t the right thing to do because technically it would be, but without the more global focus of other factors such as sleep, you can only go so far with this approach.
Eventually, we will see impaired metabolism, RED-S or what some people seem to think as ‘damaged metabolism’s’ (we can get into that another time).
It is enough to leave anyone floundering and frustrated. Resigned to never lose weight and achieve better health.
Sleep is also a little bit of a meanie because you can’t save up sleep credits by sleeping more when you have the time to, or you can’t catch up on sleep you have lost in order to regain balance. In fact, oversleeping is seen with its own risks (not as high as under sleeping but again annoying). So let go of the idea that you will sleep in on the weekends to make up for lost sleep throughout the week.
One area that doesn’t have much investigation behind it is the impact of exercise on improving sleep disruption and how that may slow down, adjust or impact these results that we are seeing. So as of now, there is no way for you to see improvements without fixing the impaired sleep.
Sleep isn’t like nutrition or exercise where you can kinda get good results by focusing on one and the other sees potential benefits. Sleep itself needs to be improved, fixed or restored with the highest of priority if you wish to reduce these dangerous risks of disease, impaired glucose and insulin metabolisms, disrupted circadian rhythm and melatonin production or sports performance.
Diet smart, not hard.