Counting Sheep

The other night, I shut down my computer at 11:00pm and already knew that with the alarm set for 4:30am, I was a far cry from getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep.  As I lay there and tried to will myself to sleep as quickly as possible, my mind took off!  I starting thinking of every little thing to put on my to-do list; ideas for new blog posts, workouts, client programs, vacation plans, bills etc…you name it!  I tried over and over to quiet my mind, but it was no use.  As I watched the clock roll past 11:30pm, 12:30am and finally 1:30am,  I became increasingly more panicked and obsessed with falling asleep! The longer I lay awake, the worse I knew the next day would be. I’m sure you all know the feeling…when you walk around half awake, groggy and delirious.   Sure enough, the following morning, there was no amount of coffee that would make me feel 100% with-it.

While 2.5 hours of sleep is an obvious deprivation, I often have the attitude that I can do without 8 hours and can make it through the day on a solid 5.5 or 6. However, running on less than 3 the other day got me thinking about how important sleep actually is to our health.

My niece Lilly, who fell asleep in the middle of dinner this week!!

My niece Lilly, who fell asleep in the middle of dinner this week!!

We are all so focused on our day-to-day tasks like work, errands, training and groceries that we often don’t give enough thought to the importance of sleep…turns out, sleep is actually the most important activity of our day! Sleep is the only time your body has to regenerate itself, rebuild muscle and strengthen bones. No matter where you are in your fitness journey or what your goals are, sleep is essential for muscle gain and fat loss! Said best by the National Sleep Foundation, “Sleep Deprivation is the royal route to Obesity.”

After taking a closer look into the role that sleep plays for our body and health, I have a few key points to share.  Below you’ll find some possible side effects of prolonged sleep deprivation.

General Health possible side effects of Sleep Deprivation:

  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke
  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Heightened levels of Stress hormones
  • Weight gain

While overall health is obviously the goal, a lot of our readers are interested in reaching a higher level of performance and a lower body fat.  So, in order to make sure we don’t overload you with information, for this post we’ll zero in a little more on the last item and take a closer look at weight control & muscle growth. For more information on sleep and health concerns, check out the National Sleep Foundation.

Weight Control & Muscle Growth – Sleep deprivation can play a big part in weight control and muscle growth.  Lack of sleep can cause your metabolism to slow down and can limit muscle repair and growth.  Our bodies regulate hormones at night, especially those in charge of fat burning and appetite, particularly carb cravings!  When you don’t get enough deep sleep, your brain thinks that you have insufficient energy stores and then goes into a state of starvation, which ups your appetite.  In addition, Human Growth hormones, which stimulate the metabolism, are only produced in the hours of deep sleep.

So, How do you get more sleep?

Getting more sleep isn’t always just a product of just getting into bed a little earlier, (although that will probably help!)   So, what can you do if you are having problems falling or staying asleep?  Here are some tips:

  • Establish a routine  – Go to bed at the same time every night & get up at the same time every morning.
  • Don’t sleep more than your body needs – Oversleeping can cause you to be sluggish and may disturb your subsequent night sleep.
  • Exercise or move everyday, but NOT right before bed, your metabolism can take up to 6 hours to slow down after you exercise.
  • Make it dark, quiet & avoid electronics close to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the day.
  • Have a light snack before bed (See below for my favorite before bed snack!)
  • Find a relaxation technique before bed.  To quiet my mind, I read and my husband mediates every night!
  • Make sure you are getting the proper nutrients throughout the day to help you sleep at night!  Sleeping problems can be caused by deficiencies in the diet.  Check out some foods that might help you sleep better, like B6, Calcium & Magnesium!  We’ve included a recipe below that incorporates some of these foods into one great meal!

I know this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sleep, but I hope this helped by giving an idea of  how important it is to get some shut eye!

Sweet dreams!

Bedtime snack

Cottage Cheese & Bananas

Cottage Cheese & Bananas

Cottage Cheese & Bananas  – ¼ – ½ cup cottage cheese and ½ banana.

We love this snack, not only because of the sleep enhancing nutrients (calcium & B6,) but the banana is a great way to replace the potassium lost during a hard workout and cottage cheese is slow digesting and gives our body what it needs during the night!

Salmon, Kale & Orange Salad

Salmon

Ingredients

  • 2-3 salmon filets
  • 8-10 Kale leaves, washed, stemmed and cut into thin strips
  • 1 can organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 oranges, squeezed (1/4 cup juice)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced olives
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon dried dill

Instructions

Add all ingredients (aside from the salmon) into a large bowl, stir and cover. Marinate in fridge for 1-24 hours (I’m impatient, so I only did 1 hour!)

Grill salmon and serve with clementine’s or mandarins oranges.

Additional Sources:

  1. “Fit & Well” by Thomas D. Fahey, Paul M. Insel & Walton T. Roth
  2. “The Eat Clean Diet” by Tosca Reno
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