Summer may be over, but hopefully, the battle to stay healthy and fit is not. As we all look for an edge heading into a more stressful time of the year, sleep and fitness should be at the top of everyone's list.
At some level, everybody's probably heard that sleep can benefit from exercise, so it's yet another reason to head to the gym. But what about the other way around? Will a good night of sleep help you get and stay fit? Evidence continues to mount about the benefits of good sleep on health, fitness, and exercise.
Getting enough sleep could be a key factor in keeping body weight under control. Yup, you read that right. Lack of sleep is associated with disrupted levels of the hormones leptin and ghrelin which regulate appetite.
Meaning if you get less sleep, those hormones get out of balance and you get more hungry - and you start eating sweets. There was also an interesting study a few years ago that looked at sleeping more as a way to lose weight. The conclusion: "replacing some sedentary activity with sleeping might offer a practical behavioral solution for a large segment of the overweight population."
Okay, better sleep can lead to better weight management, but for those who are really into the performance end of fitness, is sleep really going to be a big deal?
More and more people involved in performance athletics, including the Boston Celtics and Team Radioshack, are making sleep a priority in their training, and there's a growing body of evidence to back this trend. Some studies have also looked at the direct benefits to athletic performance from getting more sleep. In particular, Cheri Mah's group at Stanford University have found the benefits of increased sleep length in competitive NCAA athletes:
And before all you baseball pros out there think you're off the hook: sleeping times and preferences can have a big affect on pitcher performance in the big leagues. Exercise and sleep may be interrelated in more ways than we know and there are already clear benefits to both. The bottom line: hit the gym, then hit the hay - it's a win-win.
Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He was one of the youngest people to have passed the Board at age 31 and, with a specialty in Sleep Disorders, is one of only 163 psychologists in the world with his credentials and distinction. He is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board at the Zeo Sleep Research Center.