When it comes to staying fit and healthy, there’s nothing that comes close to a good night’s sleep!
You may eat healthy, exercise for at least an hour a day and stray from alcohol and cigarettes, though without proper sleep, you’re still at risk of heart disease, stroke, poor nutrient absorption and much more. Sleep is profoundly important to our body’s function from metabolism to hormone balance and without quality sleep, you’re upsetting essentially all major bodily functions.
That being said, we will dig a little deeper into why sleep is so crucial to your health and fitness, and how to get more of it.
Sleep Plays a Major Role in Heart Health
Right off the bat, sleep plays a pivotal role in our heart’s health and how it operates. And given that our heart is essentially one of the only things keeping us alive, sleep is incredibly important to our health.
One of the key roles that sleep plays in our heart health is the repair and maintenance of our heart’s major vessels. Without proper sleep over a long period of time, we may experience heart weakness which puts us at a much higher risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, kidney disease and more.
A weaker heart due to a lack of sleep also means that we’re unable to exercise to our full potential, placing more strain on our bodies and reducing our overall health.
Lack of Sleep Increases Appetite and Unhealthy Cravings
Another reason that makes sleep so important for our health is the fact that quality sleep results in a more manageable appetite.
When we don’t get enough sleep, we’re not well-rested and our body is essentially on the hunt for any energy it can get its hands on – and in our high-sugar and high-calorie world, this is generally done by a quick trip to a fast food restaurant.
Studies have shown that not only do poor sleepers crave higher sugar and high carb foods, but also weigh more and find it near-impossible to shed those extra pounds. That in mind, if you’re looking to lose weight, getting into a better sleeping routine just might be the key to this.
In some studies, even people with sleep apnea presented weight gain and issues in controlling their weight simply due to their body not falling into a routine deep sleep through the night. With that being said, devices like CPAP machines can be used to enforce a deeper sleep, and thus increase sleep quality, weight control and overall health.
Sleep Improves Concentration and Reduces Risk of Accident
If you’ve ever taken part in a marathon or half marathon, or any other running-type workout, you will know that getting through this when you’re tired is dreadful. Added to this, the risk of a trip, slip or running into something (or someone) is further increased.
That in mind, with a well-rested body and mind, we’re more likely to want to participate in exercise and fitness and do so with a reduced risk of injury. A better ability to focus on the workout at hand and not hurt ourselves is a key to maintaining health and fitness in the long term, rather than spending time on recovery from a broken limb or pulled muscle.
This also extends to the workplace, where better quality sleepers find themselves more attentive and better able to engage in workflows than their sleepless counterparts.
Sleep Quality Dictates Blood Sugar or Glucose Levels
A point closely tied to appetite is sleep’s effect on blood sugar and an increased risk of type-2 diabetes due to insulin sensitivity changes.
When we experience reduced sleeping hours, our body’s sensitivity to insulin falls, leading us to crave sugary foods but also get less of a ‘kick’ from these. This essentially leads us to a major overindulgence of sugars and sweets that we typically wouldn’t eat.
Where the true knock-on effect of this comes into play, especially when fitness is concerned, is our lack of energy for activity. We’re depleted (or tired) and unable to get energy from our typically energy-boosting foods such as fruits, complex carbs and even those simple carbs like sugary workout drinks that would typically help us push through.
Ultimately, we’re less motivated to partake in fitness-focused activities, but also unable to get a proper workout in, a double whammy that goes against our health.
Sleep Increases Immune System Effectiveness
To end our list of reasons why sleep is so important to health and fitness, we must highlight illness and the ability to fight off disease.
When we are sleep deprived, our body’s immune system slows down, is less effective and in one study, sleep-deprived participants exposed to a cold virus were 300 per cent more likely to develop a cold as opposed to those who were well-rested.
Pairing this reduced immune response with our daily lives, there’s a high chance that unsatisfactory sleep could take a toll on everything from motivation to exercise and even the ability to eat healthily to recover from sickness.