You’re doing everything right, and yet you still can’t lose weight? Well, you’re most likely overlooking the one thing you actually want more of—sleep. Before I get into why sleep is significant, let me start with a quick story. Years ago, early in my career, I had a client whom we’ll call Sarah. Sarah desperately wanted to lose weight, and she was dedicated to doing so. She completely changed her life around. She ran, she dieted properly, and she even hired me to go all drill sergeant on her in the gym. And on top of all this, she hired a nutritionist. After all the hours burned and the dollars spent, Sarah saw little weight loss.
Like I said, I was still new to the personal training game, so I was baffled. I had done everything I could for Sarah, and yet we saw no results. Clearly, we were both disappointed. It drove me nuts, so I had to know why the pounds weren’t coming off. Well, it turns out Sarah had a high-stress career, and she was cramming so much into her waking hours and only getting about four hours of sleep. Once she divulged this to me, we created a new life strategy where she could get at least seven hours of sleep each night. And guess what. She dropped the weight like a bad habit.
So the point of all this is you need to hit the hay longer. No matter if you’re an athlete or just a healthy-minded person, you need to sleep to get fit and perform better. But why exactly? I’m glad you asked. Here’s what happens as a result of depriving yourself of sleep:
- Lowers energy levels—so this one seems kind of obvious right? The more tired you are, the less endurance you have.
- Lowers reflexes and decision-making skills—again, the more tired you are, the less likely you are to make smart choices, both physically and mentally. After all, whether you’re on the court or in a courtroom, every split-second decision matters.
- Lowers and raises hormone levels—this one is kind of a cruel joke your body plays on you. Lack of sleep reduces the hormones you need and raises the ones you don’t want. For instance:
o Cortisol—this is the stress hormone which slows memory, limits your body’s ability to heal, and increases your risk of injury. Yup, you get more of this when you lack sleep.
o Growth hormone—lack of sleep lowers this, and yet you need this as badly as Jay-Z needs karate lessons. Growth hormone helps your body build muscle as well as heightens your metabolism.
o Leptin—this suppresses hunger. So, the less you sleep, the less leptin you get, and the hungrier you become.
o Ghrelin—this is the opposite of Leptin. Ghrelin stimulates hunger. And yes, you guessed it, the less you sleep, the more ghrelin your body releases.
Now, there are things you can do to combat these effects. I suggest you all follow these rules, especially if you’re an athlete.
- Create a sleep schedule—stop staying out late and get to bed earlier. You need to get the ZZZZs in.
- Plan ahead for travel—if you travel, especially for a sporting competition, give yourself a day or two in advance to get acclimated to your new environment. Changes in time zone and location can radically affect your body’s internal clock and your ability to excel. Fight back.
- Just say no—to sleeping pills, caffeine, and alcohol. These don’t just mess with your ability to sleep, but also your game…obviously.
On the plus side, aren’t you happy to know you should be sleeping more? So the next time someone berates you for sleeping too much, tell them it’s all part of your plan to be a slimmer, fitter champion.