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The Importance of Sleep

Post by on Sunday, January 23, 2022

First slide

To set the stage, we're going to look at how your sleep influences the other 3 pillars of health because they are interdependent.

Sleep & Nutrition

When you're sleep deprived, 3 progress-prohibiting things happen:

• You feel hungrier.

• You eat more food.

• You make poorer food choices.

Let's dive in, shall we? 

1. You feel hungrier

Study after study shows that people who skimp on sleep report feeling hungrier. It's not just in your head, physiologically you are, too! Missing out on sleep interferes with the normal rhythms of your hunger hormones. When you get fewer than 7 hours of sleep (even in the short-term), ghrelin increases and leptin decreases, which is why you likely find yourself hungrier after a restless night.

2. You eat more food

Okay, you can be hungrier, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll eat more food. Unfortunately, when sleep is the perpetrator, it does. Researchers at The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that missing a few hours of sleep one night causes people to eat an average of 559 calories more the next day. Forget losing weight. If you miss out on a few hours of sleep every night this week, you might see the number on the scale increase about half a kg.

3. You make poorer food choices

As if it weren't hard enough to say no to sweets in the break-room, staying up until 3am to meet that deadline makes it nearly impossible. Lack of sleep increases your desire to eat ultra-processed, calorie-dense treats like potato chips, cakes, and cookies as per an article in the International Journal of Obesity proved it. Being deprived of sleep for just one night caused their brain's reward centres to go buck wild when they saw images of high-fat, refined, carbohydrate-heavy processed foods. It’s no wonder that plain old stale donut looks extra delicious in the morning after you missed some!


Sleep & Stress

You've probably learned firsthand that when you're stressed, your sleep suffers. But it works the other way around, too! 

Lack of sleep feeds into the stress cycle by impacting your memory, judgment, and mood, making you much more susceptible to feeling stressed. Not only are you more susceptible to stress, but lack of sleep lowers the threshold at which you perceive stress -- meaning you're likely to interpret the same situation as more stressful if you've had a late night versus when you're well-rested.

Sleep & Exercise

When you're sleep deprived, 3 progress-prohibiting things happen:

1. You're less active

2. Your workouts suffer

3. That's if you work out at all...

Let's dive in, shall we?


1. You're less active

A study published in Obesity showed that people who logged 4 hours of sleep for 5 consecutive nights already started to show a 3% decrease in Resting Energy Expenditure (REE) - about 42 calories per day.


What's REE again?

REE is the amount of calories your body burns from its most basic processes - keeping your heart beating, your lungs breathing, your brain (over)thinking… you get the point.  

Essentially, if you were to lay in bed all day every day, your body would still need this many calories to survive. Think of it as the number of calories you'd need to binge Netflix 24/7. Why? Your body is trying to conserve energy - biologically speaking. Well, your body is also sending you signals to conserve energy in your daily life, behaviourally speaking.


People who forgo sleep burn fewer calories from non-exercise activities (just basic movement).


2. Your workouts suffer

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people miss out on a good night's sleep, they are more likely to:

1. Opt for lower-intensity activities (think: walking over jogging).

2. Perform their workout at lower intensities (think: side steps instead of twerking at your zumba class).

3. Burn fewer calories overall (no explanation needed!).


3. That's if you work out at all…

While you'd think being awake for more time throughout the day would give you even more opportunity to get moving, it is no surprise that a lack of sleep has people feeling lethargic and desperate to conserve the energy they do have. That being said, most studies show that when people are tired, they are 2-3x more likely to skip their planned workout.


Deliberate the blue light debate

Ever see someone staring at their computer with oddly-shaped, weirdly-coloured, less-than-fashionable glasses? Maybe that person is you. Or maybe you think that person looks ridiculous. Whatever the case may be, that person may be onto something. In case you're wondering, they're called blue light blockers.


When it comes to blue light, here are the facts:

• It's a colour in the visible light spectrum - the spectrum of light that can be seen by humans.

• Light is made up of small electromagnetic particles which travel in waves that emit energy.

• Blue light waves are short and compact, meaning they are higher in energy. 

• The biggest source of blue light is electronics.

• Blue light impacts our body's hormone production, specifically Melatonin.

When it comes to sleep, here are the facts:

• Sleep is initiated by a hormone: melatonin.

• Melatonin also plays an important role in regulating the rhythms of hunger hormones like ghrelin and leptin.

• Disturbances in sleep interrupt our body's melatonin production, indirectly impacting the hormones that regulate our food intake and body weight.


Studies published in journals from Sleep to Obesity have long showed links between electronic use and sleep disruption, weight gain, obesity, and lifestyle-related health conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Now, we have a framework that can help us understand how!


The good news is... there are plenty of ways to ease up on electronics to set you up for success.



Ease up on electronics

I think we can all agree we can use a little less screen time and the top 3 practical tips to reduce your electronic use and minimise your blue light exposure.


Tip 1: Pick up a new hobby (or rekindle an old one).

We know what you're thinking…


I have such a busy schedule man!

But think about how much time you've spent creeping Priyanka’s Facebook page or window shopping online and adding things to that imaginary cart and checking out.

 Point taken.

Identify pockets of time throughout the day where you mindlessly consume electronic media, and think about what you might enjoy doing instead.

 Tip 2: Keep electronics outside your bedroom.

It's that "outta sight, outta mind" thing. 

We hate to scare you, but there's also some evidence that the waves emitted by mobile devices might not be too hot for our health, so reducing your exposure may have more than one benefit.

 Tip 3: Establish viewing times

Limit the amount of time you spend glued to the Youtube or Netflix by blocking off some time each day where you are allowed to watch TV, tune into the news, or (not binge) watch some Netflix. If you're outside of your "viewing time," better luck next time. At first it's going to be rough - kinda like a juice cleanse.


So make sure to keep early 20th century (pre-TV) activities in your back pocket (or up your sleeves). Think: going for a walk, listening to music, organising your closet, prepping food for the week, playing a board game, or phoning a friend.


Over time, it'll get easier. And eventually, you might even decide you like the 20th century better. 

So here you have 'em:

1. Pick up a new hobby (or rekindle an old one).

2. Keep electronics outside of your bedroom.

3. Establish viewing times.


Perfect the pre-sleep routine


So, sleep is important. We've made that loud and clear. But, like ... who has time for that? We can't add more hours in a day, but we can make those hours count. The best way to make our hours count is to plan our time, and to develop efficient and effective routines.

Having a pre-sleep or bedtime routine can help you fall asleep more easily and improve the quality of your sleep over time


Your routine should include:

1. A time to unplug.

2. Preparation for the following day.

3. A relaxing activity.

4. A bedtime.


1. A time to unplug

Remember deliberating the blue light debate? To help you set the stage for a restful night's sleep, choose a time to stop using and put away all electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. If you can put them away even earlier, do it. But for most of us, this might not be practical.

Pro tip: If you're not concerned about fashion, you might want to consider blue light blockers (glasses that help reduce the blue light your eyes absorb). There are also computer programs that remove blue light and some phones have a 'night mode' that removes blue light from your screen!


2. Preparation for the following day

While it may seem counterintuitive, if you get in the habit of preparing for the following day the night before, you can save time each day. Something as simple as picking out your clothes, packing your lunch, or creating a to-do list can go a long way.


3. A relaxing activity

Choose a relaxing activity depending on your likes, interests, and needs. If you have a bit more time in the evenings, perhaps you want to stretch for 15-20 minutes, read a chapter from a book, or take a warm bath. If you're usually in a bit of time crunch, perhaps you'll want to sit and breathe deeply for a minute while engaging in mindfulness practice or take a minute to write down 3 things you are grateful for.


4. A bedtime

Having a set time in mind of when you will go to bed can help you better structure your evenings.

You'll also want to try and go to bed at the same time each night - yes, even on weekends! A little flexibility is fine (we know you're a social creature), but having a bedtime is one of the best ways to help train your body to sleep better and get into a healthy groove.


Putting it all together, your routine could look like this: 

• 9:30pm: Put away all electronics.

• 9:35pm: Pick out your clothes for the next day.

• 9:40pm: Take a warm bath.

• 10:00pm: Tuck yourself in bed and prepare for a restful night’s sleep.


When creating your bedtime routine, there are 3 things to keep in mind:

1. Simple: Your routine doesn’t have to be elaborate, it just has to provide you with some structure and help you prepare yourself for bed!

2. Realistic: If you go to bed at midnight every night right now, creating an 8pm bedtime is probably not realistic. The more doable your routine is, the more likely you are to do it. 

3. Sustainable: Aim to make your routine something that you enjoy and fits nicely into your daily life. The most important part is that it's something you can stick to long-term.


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