A new paper published in the journal “The European Health Psychologist,” examines the impact of sleep on our eating behavior. The author cites research stating that sleep deprivation, defined as receiving less than seven hours of sleep per night, negatively impacts our food choices and is correlated with obesity. A lack of sleep impacts our executive function and reduces our inhibitory control. Specifically, a lack of sleep acutely leads us to choosing foods that are unhealthy, high-calorie, and high-fat; and this is seen across all ages and ethnicities. As a health and fitness minded person, we often find ourselves wading through piles of nutrition information as we contemplate decisions around calories, marco-nutrients, phytochemicals, intermittent fasting, and about a thousand other nutrition related elements. However, maybe the most succinct and evidence based advice for improving our nutrition choices and improving our body composition is this: Sleep more.
Since the 1960’s, we are getting less and less sleep. Indeed, I have previously championed the thought, “sleep when you’re dead.” I deemed a person lazy if they slept in past 5:00am and receiving more than six hours per night was slothful. I was wrong.
In addition to our nutrition, a growing body of research indicates that muscle growth and tissue remodeling is maximized during REM sleep. So sleep leads to more muscle as well as less fat.
In the last year and a half, I’ve changed my thinking about sleep. No longer do I view a chronic lack of sleep as a badge of honor or a sign of work ethic or “hustle.” I now view a lack of sleep as a choice that leads to underperformance in literally all aspects of our lives. Perhaps author and consultant, Greg McKeown says it best when he articulates the importance of sleep, “Protect the asset.” If we aren’t sleeping and protecting our intellectual, physical, and emotional capacity, we simply cannot offer our highest level of contribution. This is the new mindset around sleep (and it just so happens to apply to safe, intelligent, strength-training as well).
Protect the asset. Sleep more.