The Bhagwad Gita speaks of the importance of sleep. During the great battle of Mahabharata, Lord Krishna told Arjun that for a meaningful Yoga practice, balance in sleep is crucial. Lord Vishnu is said to have brought forth the universe from his navel, during his sleep. Creation literally grows during sleep.
How sleep influences our weight?
As Munmun Ganeriwal, nutritionist & fitness consultant explains that lack of sleep or the sleep “debt” not only makes you feel cranky and tired, decreases your work productivity but also influences how much you eat. Not getting enough sleep impairs metabolism and disrupts hormone levels. A study led by scientists at the University of Chicago termed sleep deprivation "the royal route to obesity”.
With ongoing sleep loss, insulin sensitivity of body reduces. The blood sugar released in the body after you eat is not well regulated. At the same time, your body secretes more cortisol (stress hormone), which makes it harder for insulin to do its work effectively. The net effect: Excess glucose stays in the bloodstream, that not only leads to weight gain but also increases the risk of developing diabetes.
Hunger regulating hormones are affected by sleep, as well. Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates appetite, while Leptin decreases it. Leptin is the hormone that essentially signals the brain that you have eaten enough. When the body is sleep-deprived, the level of Ghrelin spikes, while the level of Leptin falls, leading to an increase in hunger. Due to Leptin insensitivity, you are also not able to perceive fullness or satiety and hence, tend to overeat.
Apart from the fact that lack of sleep throws the hormones out of balance, it also kicks off a process in the body that raises the blood level of a lipid known as ‘Endocannabinoid’. The Endocannabinoid system (ECS) is involved in a variety of physiological and metabolic processes like that of insulin sensitivity, energy storage, appetite and more. It specifically increases hunger for junk foods, such as chocolates, candy, and chips. In fact, people who don’t get enough sleep eat almost twice as much the next day, compared with those who sleep well.
How sleep influences the effects of exercise?
When Lord Krishna explained Arjun the importance of sleep, he reinforced that balanced sleep is essential so that yoga practise can mitigate all pain and suffering. Fascinating new research in exercise science is on the same page as this ancient age old wisdom. This is how it explains:
For years your health expert, trainer, doctor have mostly been telling you to eat right and exercise consistently. New diets, new fads, new exercise routines keep making new headlines on health and fitness tabloids, and you have probably cut down food intake and making more rounds to the gym than ever before. Despite all this, losing those extra kilos look far-fetched while you seem to be losing out on energy and enthusiasm. What is really missing?
The third piece of the puzzle: Sleep
The latest diet, your favourite actor’s training routine or the new supplement in market, all of these may fail to give “results” if sleep that is possibly most important of all is not prioritized. Without adequate sleep, time in the gym could be, to a large extent, unproductive and wasted.
The best exercise schedule, diet plan will not compensate for inadequate rest, and sleep is the best way of getting this rest. Without sufficient rest your body will fail to adapt to the exercise stimuli.
During sleep, human growth hormone (HGH) is released and protein synthesis takes place. This is how sleep enhances muscle recovery. Recovery will take a backseat if you fail to prioritize sleep, so get to sleep if you want to increase your lean muscle mass, get stronger, lose weight and achieve optimal results.
How much sleep is enough?
The number of hours of sleep that is ideal for someone really varies from person to person. But on an average, 7-8 hours of sleep is what is needed. Also, the quality of restful sleep is very important. It is crucial to ensure you wake up feeling fresh and energetic in the morning, not tired, dull and groggy.
Steps to ensure you get sound sleep and lose weight
Switch off all gadgets (Phone/TV/ IPad/ Kindle) at least an hour before you sleep
Melatonin is the sleep inducing hormone that is normally released by the pineal gland in the brain a few hours before bedtime. The light that the screens of these gadgets emit delays the release of melatonin, increases alertness, and resets the body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later hour. The burst of light from a phone (even if it's just to check the time) can break a sleep cycle. The end result: It not only takes you longer to fall asleep; you also tend to wake up feeling sleepier, tired, dull and not well rested, even after eight hours of closed eye. This is now also being termed as the “Social Jet Lag”
Eat a wholesome dinner 2-3 hours before going to bed
Avoid stimulants like tea/ coffee/ desserts post sunset. Have a wholesome dinner not close to bedtime. Make sure you eat 2-3 hours before you go to bed.
Have milk at bedtime
Milk and milk products contain an amino acid ‘tryptophan’ that induces sleep. Have a glass of warm milk before going to bed.
Avoid exercising in the evening
Getting consistent exercise improves the quality of your sleep. However, avoid exercising less than 3 hours from bedtime as the body may become alert and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Rub ghee on the soles of your feet
Rubbing ghee on the soles of your feet just before going to bed has been the age old therapy for relaxing the body and mind, inducing good night’s sleep in Ayurveda.
Go ahead, Train like an athlete, Eat like a nutritionist, Sleep like a baby, Win like a champion!