Are your sleeping habits hurting your fitness goals?

We all know that sleep is important. But did you know that good sleep can play a big role in helping you reach your fitness goals? And the reverse is also true -- bad sleep or lack of sleep can drastically hurt your fitness progress. 

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Here are a few ways sleep can help or hinder your fitness goals:

Sleep helps your body recover. Sleep is when your body repairs the wear and tear you put on the body from working out. It rebuilds your muscles through protein synthesis. It also repairs other body tissues/bones/organs, and replaces aging and dead cells. Sleep also replenishes your energy stores. The less you sleep, the less your body can recover, the less muscle it can build/repair.

The amount of sleep you get also regulates a number of hormones directly tied to appetite. Lack of sleep leads to elevated ghrelin levels (regulates your desire to eat) and lowered leptin hormones (regulates your satisfaction from food). In short, this means your desire to eat increases and your ability to be satisfied with what you eat decreases. Sleep also is closely tied to cortisol levels. Cortisol is your stress hormone - and the more stressed you are, the more likely you are to eat more often, make less healthy choices, and to eat larger portions. In fact, a 2004 study Read more about a study showing a correlations between sleep, ghrelin, leptin and BMI here. 

Lack of sleep can lead to fat being stored instead of burned. Sleep also controls your metabolism and your body's insulin sensitivity. In simple terms, this can lead to excess insulin, resulting in storing fat in all the wrong places. 

So if sleep is so important, what can we do to get more adequate sleep. 

Here are three sleep habits to help you get a better night of rest:

1. Create a bedtime routine for a good nights rest

If you do the same thing each night prior to going to sleep; your body will know this and start it’s own internal process to fall asleep. Try this and modify to fit your routine: 

Turn off electronic devices 30 minutes before bed. 
Brush your teeth, wash your face, and/or take a shower.
Meditate for 10 minutes.
Get into bed, read a book for 10 minutes.
Turn out the light and get some Zzz's

2. Keep your room dark and cool

Your brain interprets darkness as time to sleep and light as an alert to be awake. To keep your room dark, eliminate or cover electronic devices (TV, alarm clocks, or other devices with lights) and use blackout curtains if street lights filter in. Try to cool your house to ~5 degrees cooler than you keep it during the day. If you wake up hot throughout the night, you might want to look into a cooler mattress or mattress topper.

3. Avoid electronics for at least 30 minutes before bed.

Try switching off the TV, putting away your phone, and reading for 15-20min before bed instead. Watching TV or looking at your phone not only stimulates the mind but it also sends blue light impulses to your brain (mimicking daylight), telling your brain its time to be alert and awake. This can make it even harder to wind down. Getting a deep sleep helps your body recover faster, reduce soreness and increase testosterone which is needed by both men and women to stimulate muscle recovery and growth.

4. Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the late afternoon and evening.

Caffeine causes activity and alertness in your brain. Alcohol on the other hand, while it may appear to make some people sleepy, significantly alters the stages of sleep leading to lest restful sleep. 

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