By Jillian Teta
So we know that you have all heard this before – that sleep is crucial for health and for optimal physique development – but you may be wondering exactly why, or pondering how are you going to fit that into your already jam-packed schedule of work, fun, relationships, kids, the computer and great late night TV. When many people are stressed and busy, sleep is the first thing to get compromised, often at the expense of your energy levels and happy mood (not to mention fitness and fat loss goals)!
Why, then, is sleep so important? The truth is that sleep plays a vitally important role in fat-burning, stress hormone balance and body and immune repair. Even with these important roles defined, it can be difficult for people to get to sleep, stay asleep, and have deep restful sleep, so we’d like to cover some strategies for getting you your beauty sleep.
Did you know that sleep is prime time for fat-burning? Yup, it absolutely is, and can be even further enhanced with resistance training, burst and interval training, and a diet chock-full of lean proteins, veggies and fruits, clean carbs and healthy fats. Depending on your own unique makeup, experts recommend between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Sleep is also a huge hormonal “reset button”. While we sleep, excitatory, stress inducing hormones (not to mention our hunger and craving hormones) are decreased significantly, so that when we wake up (at least until our mind starts racing!) we are fresh and stress-free. Additionally, adequate sleep is important for blood sugar control to avoid those roller-coaster highs and lows throughout the day. Sleep also helps control the hydrostatic balance, or water balance, in your body. You may notice that when you are sleep deprived you tend to look “puffy.”
OK, OK, you get it! Sleep is so important, but there may be so many other things standing in your way of a great night of some Zzzzz’s. First and foremost, try to establish a bedtime routine: go to bed and wake up at similar times every day. About 30 minutes before your designated bedtime, turn off the TV, all of the big, overhead lights, and most definitely your computer :) Now is a good time to have a cup of relaxing herbal tea. We here at JillFit love Bedtime Tea by Yogi, which has several gentle, sleep-inducing herbs (see pic below). If you have no problem going to sleep, but staying asleep is a job for you, consider having a small handful (about 15) walnut halves before bed.
Magnesium can also be used to help with sleep, as it is very calming and can help relax tired muscles. If you have a chaotic schedule and are trying to establish a bedtime routine, Melatonin can help you, as it helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and in some people it acts like a sleep aid. Metabolic Effect offers a great herbal sleep aid called Gaba Calm, which is another natural option. Jill swears by her Gaba Calm/magnesium nightly regimen :)
Sleep feels like an indulgence in our fast-paced lives and some of us may even feel guilty if we sleep longer than 5-6 hours (!), but remember, sleep is a foundational pillar for fat loss, stress management, physique sculpting and for looking and feeling your best. So put “sleep” on your to-do list right now and take it off the back burner, because making sleep a priority is essential. Sweet dreams!