Why is sleep important

The top benefits you get from quality sleep.

It seems counter-intuitive but this is essential information for anyone who is trying to slim, tone, buff up and live a healthier, fitter lifestyle. While sit-ups and crunches are amazing for strength and endurance, there are quite a lot of myths about how exercise is king when it comes to burning fat and building muscle. Sleeping soundly and long at night should be on the top of the list for lifestyle goals. It’s during sleep that the magic happens.

The benefits of a good night’s sleep

Amanda Dinte, nutritionist BHSc, has written an excellent article on her blog The Kitchen Cleanse that lists three of the essential benefits of a good night’s sleep. While sleeping, our bodies balance themselves hormonally, produce energy (so that the morning boot camp session feel like a party, rather than a punishment) and repair all of the beatings our muscles and systems take both from general daily living and from our awesome regular workouts.

Sleep flushes the body with peaked levels of Growth Hormone, which gets tissue repair flowing, converts fat into muscle after a workout and helps regulate blood-sugar levels and liver regeneration. So, it turns out that hitting the gym and maintaining a high protein, low-calorie diet will actually only work if sleep is the priority of the day.

And there’s research to all this, showing that sleeplessness messes with metabolism and hormonal harmony. Dr Siobhan Banks, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in the US and the Centre for Sleep Research at the University of South Australia has made sleep and weight loss her current life’s work. It’s long been known that cortisol is a main culprit of weight gain due to insomnia —it’s a stress hormone that activates reward centres in our brain that make us crave food, hungry or not. There’s also leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that control our hunger. Fatigue drains leptin and produces more ghrelin— so, the less leptin produced, the more our stomach feels empty. The more ghrelin, the hungrier we feel and the slower our metabolism.

Sleep Deprivation Causes Hormonal Chaos

It seems that insomnia and sleeplessness — which is generally defined as having regular nights of less than six hours of proper shut-eye — creates a perfect storm of hormonal chaos, or perhaps a sort of hormone conspiracy.

The best remedy is: eat light and healthy, exercise and relax, turn off the TV and the smart phone an hour before bed and don’t be afraid of a few oceanic soundtracks if that’s what gets the dreams rolling in. Next time a doctor or personal trainer says, go home and sleep: obey.