The less you sleep, the more hours you’ll have to do what’s really important in life. More work, better results! Right?
It might feel like a necessary evil, sinking time into laying in bed, seemingly unconcious, doing nothing. If you’re after results though, you should reconsider that position.
Sleeping well and long has many health benefits but in this article I’ll focus on what’s really important – looking good naked. 😉 Specifically, losing fat and building muscle.
How can sleeping help your aesthetics? Here are three reasons!
Energy Expenditure Decreases.
If you want to get rid of fat you have to lose more energy (calories) than you absorb from food.
However, you will need to eat something, in order to cover your nutritional bases. This is why maintaining a good energy expenditure is important to fat loss. And sleeping too little screws that up.
One study at the University of Lübeck measured the effects of one single night of sleep deprivation. They found that not sleeping decreased the subjects’ energy expenditure by 5-20% (!) and increased their ghrelin levels – the “hunger hormone”.
Not sleeping for a whole night is a little extreme and in more moderate sleep deprivation experiments we’ve seen mixed results.
While we don’t yet know exactly how much the energy expenditure is affected by cutting your bed time, we do know there is an effect.
One extra episode of Breaking Bad alone might not make or break your fitness goals but, as they say, many small streams make a big river.
(Besides, who the hell can stop after just one episode?!)
The other end of the fat loss formula – energy intake – is also disturbed by sleeping too little.
One study from 2013 had subjects sleeping either five or nine hours per night, for five days. They were given free access to snacks and had their energy intake measured.
Sleeping five hours led to the subjects eating a whole lot more calories and gaining four times as much weight as the nine hour group.
Another study noticed an increase of 550 kcal in energy intake by a group that had their sleep reduced by one third (from 8 hours to 5.3 hours, for example).
Sleeping less than what your body needs makes you hungry, which leads to eating more, which adds to the love handles.
Fat Loss is Impaired.
Since you’re reading this fitness article, I’m sure you’ll wonder how this relates to you. You’ve already arranged your food around the perfect macro breakdown and everything is carefully weighed and tracked.
Sorry to break it to you, but you’re still not safe from the negative effects of sleeping too little.
One study at the University of Chicago monitored two groups of subjects over two weeks. They were both put on a caloric deficiency and then one group had their sleep restricted to 5.5 hours per night, while the other could sleep 8.5 hours.
After two weeks, the sleep deprived had lost 0.6 kg fat while the others lost 1.4 kg (more than double!). The poor, tired bastards further lost almost twice as much muscle mass as well.
I know which group I’d rather be in!
Another study, from the University of Arizona, followed 245 obese women over the course of two years. They had their sleep evaluated at the beginning and after six months.
What they found was that good sleep quality increased the likelihood of weight loss success by 33% and so did sleeping more than seven hours. A bad sleep score was instead associated with lower likelihood of successful weight loss.
One final study put 123 overweight and obese subjects on a 600-700 kcal deficiency for 15-24 weeks. During this time they measured the subjects weight and body fat, as well as evaluated their sleep.
What they found was clear – “a significant positive relationship between sleep duration and the loss of body fat”.
Sleeping for longer leads to more successful weight loss and sleeping well helps make sure that loss is more from fat than muscle.
Get Some zzz!
I hope I’ve convinced you of the importance of sleep by now. Before finishing off though, I’d like to share two very simple ideas to help you meet your sleep needs.
Need More Sleep?
First – realize that feeling tired isn’t a signal to refill the cup with more coffee. It’s a sign that your body needs to sleep more!
This becomes very apparent for example when following a heavy strength program. If you begin to feel drowsy during daytime, it’s a sign that the program works and that you thus need more horizontal time to keep growing along with it.
Make sure to adjust your bed hours accordingly!
Second – if you wake up by the sound of an alarm, you are, by definition, sleeping less than you need. Once your body is done sleeping, it’ll wake up. Simple as that.
I realize we’re adults, with morning meetings to attend and work times to adhere to. However much we’d like to, few can tell their boss they’ll come in whenever they happen to wake up.
Most likely though, you can control the other end of the sleep cycle – the start of it. If 8 am is a non-negotiable wake-up time, and you’d really want eight hours of sleep, simply go to bed before midnight.
Sleeping feels great and it does great things for your body, so why not treat yourself to some extra?!
Sleep, and quality sleep in particular, is an essential component of human survival. In fact, sleep deprivation is even used as a form of torture! Lack of quality sleep effects mood, general productivity and also reduces the effectiveness of training sessions. If you’re struggling to ‘switch off’ at night, take a look at the supplements in the sleep enhancement range, including ZMA and Tryptophan.
About the Author
Tobias Sjösten is the founder of Athlegan.com, a blog about the rise of Veganism. Tobias shares his stories as he learns to create the strongest, fastest and healthiest version of himself possible.
1. Acute sleep deprivation reduces energy expenditure in healthy men.
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3. Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain.
4. Effects of experimental sleep restriction on caloric intake and activity energy expenditure.
5. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity.
6. Relationship between sleep quality and quantity and weight loss in women participating in a weightloss
7. Sleeping habits predict the magnitude of fat loss in adults exposed to moderate caloric restriction.