Do you have a health or fitness goal that is extremely important to you?
If so, imagine working your butt off doing absolutely everything that you can think of to meet this goal. You’re watching what you eat, skipping out on the fast food and sweets (your favorite) and exercising every single day.
But no matter what you do, you still struggle to see any real progress towards your goals, despite seemingly doing everything right.
How frustrating! Have you ever experienced this?
One of the things people often overlook when their progress towards their goals comes to a screeching halt, is the effects of lack of sleep on our ability to form new health and fitness habits.
Today we’ll talk about how a chronic lack of sleep and poor sleep quality can have very real and extremely detrimental effects on your ability to achieve your health and fitness goals.
So read on to learn how to avoid sabotaging yourself when it comes to your health and fitness goals. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the awesome infographic!
How Much Sleep Do Adults Need?
The purpose of sleep is to give the body time to do any necessary repair and maintenance as well as to process things that happened throughout the day.
So how much sleep do people actually need to function properly?
It is recommended that adults get at least 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. (That’s roughly 1/3rd of our life spent sleeping!)
When it comes to sleep, both sleep duration (amount of time spent sleeping) AND sleep quality are important.
Sleeping too few hours and/or having poor sleep quality, are both considered a “lack of sleep”, or “sleep deprivation”.
The negative effects of lack of sleep seem to become even more serious when you get less than 6 hours of quality sleep per night.
How Common Is Sleep Deprivation?
According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC):
“Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic.”
The CDC reports the following sleep statistics for Americans:
- 11% never get enough sleep.
- 25% don’t get enough sleep half of the time.
- 70% don’t get enough sleep at least once a month.
It is estimated that roughly 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from the effects of lack of sleep on a regular basis. And the bad news is that this seems to be only getting worse as time goes on.
6 Ways Lack Of Sleep Sabotages Your Health & Fitness Goals
Even a single night of bad sleep can decrease mood, energy, and performance. If you are working your butt off to adopt new healthy habits, that is a big deal!
Check out the following 6 ways that lack of sleep can sabotage your health and fitness goals.
1 – Lack Of Sleep Causes Fatigue
One of the first effects of lack of sleep that you’ll likely notice is fatigue.
When your eyelids feel like they weigh a thousand pounds each and you’d give your left arm to stay home in your cozy bed rather than do anything that requires even an ounce of effort… that’s fatigue.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
When it comes to health habits, fatigue can lead to skipped workouts, more sedentary time, and the unwillingness to cook healthy meals.
For these reasons, fatigue can quickly derail your health and fitness goals.
2 – Lack Of Sleep Increases Appetite
Appetite, including hunger and satiety (feeling full), are controlled by hormones.
Normally, when your body needs food and nutrients, your stomach releases a hormone called Ghrelin. Ghrelin’s presence tells your brain that you are hungry and it’s time to eat.
Then, after you’ve eaten, your body uses a hormone called Leptin (among others) to tell your brain that you got the nutrients you needed, and can now stop eating.
BUT lack of sleep throws this hormonal regulation of appetite all out of whack.
When you are sleep deprived your appetite increases, and it takes you longer to feel full.
Because of this hormonal imbalance, you’re likely to consume more calories which can, of course, result in weight gain.
3 – Lack Of Sleep Makes You Crave High Calorie Foods
When you’re awake when you should be sleeping, do you find that you crave more junk food?
One of the effects of lack of sleep is that it activates the endocannabinoid system causing people to crave foods that are high in fat, sugar, and calories.
I know what you’re thinking.
Endocannabinoid… That sounds like marijuana!
And yes, you are correct. Using marijuana stimulates this same endocannabinoid system that it triggered by lack of sleep.
That might explain why stoners get the munchies and why medical marijuana is prescribed to cancer patients for weight gain.
4 – Lack Of Sleep Decreases Willpower
When trying to build new healthy habits like eating better or exercising more, willpower or self-control can be extremely helpful in sticking to your goals.
For example resisting that donut at your Monday morning work meeting when you are trying to cut down on added sugars takes a lot of willpower!
Especially when the donuts are maple bars…. your favorite!
However, when you are lacking sleep, your willpower and decision making abilities go right out the window.
This means that it is much harder to resist temptations like eating comfort foods, or lounging on the couch in front of the TV like a zombie instead of doing your workout.
In other words, lack of sleep makes it significantly harder to say no to high calorie junk food and yes to exercise.
5 – Lack Of Sleep Slows Down Recovery
Exercise is a form of stress on the body. A good stress, but stress nonetheless.
Under normal circumstances, a workout causes small amounts of damage to your muscles.
When you get enough sleep, your body takes this time to repair the damage in a way that makes your muscles stronger than they were before. That is how muscles increase in strength so you can do more exercise over time.
But when you are sleep deprived, your body doesn’t have time to repair all of the muscle damage caused by your workout.
This means that your muscles can stay sore or feel sluggish and fatigued for a longer period of time.
This muscle fatigue due to lack of sleep can lead to one of two things – neither of them good.
One, because your body doesn’t feel good, you may just opt to skip your workout. If this happens often, it will slow down your progress towards meeting your health and fitness goals.
And two, if you are chronically sleep deprived but manage to power through and exercise despite your body not being fully recovered, you can develop what is called overtraining.
Overtraining is a very common cause of muscular injuries. And of course if you injure your muscles you will be forced to take time off of exercise, which could derail your health and fitness goals.
6 – Lack Of Sleep Weakens Your Immune System
Finally, it is well known that chronic lack of sleep can weaken the immune system. As you likely know, your immune system is what helps your body fight off infections and prevents you from getting sick.
People that don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis typically get sick more often. And when people are sick they often skip workouts and eat comfort foods.
Not getting enough sleep can make it extremely difficult to stick to your health and fitness goals.
Lack of sleep can sabotage your health and fitness goals by:
- Making you feel fatigued.
- Increasing appetite.
- Causing you to crave high calorie foods.
- Decreasing willpower.
- Slowing down recovery from exercise.
- Compromising the immune system.
Each and every one of these things can contribute to skipped workouts and poor nutrition choices that could derail your healthy habits.
To avoid sabotaging yourself, make getting 7 to 8 quality hours of sleep a night a priority!
Stay tuned for my upcoming post on tips to improve your sleep hygiene.
Sign-up for my weekly newsletter to make sure you don’t miss it!