It’s that time of year when many of us start to consider our New Year’s resolutions. For the vast majority, these resolutions are along the lines of “New Year, New You”. We plan to join the gym, eat healthier and hope to lose some weight. If you really want to make your resolutions stick this year then it would be wise to recognise the powerful role that sleep can play in helping you achieve a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight and exercise more.
To be successful with any resolution, motivation is key. Poor sleep depletes motivation, increasing the likelihood that we’ll engage in risky behaviours (like sneaking a few extra chocolates from the box).
If you want to be more motivated, healthier and happier in the New Year then read on to find out how better sleep can help you achieve your goals.
Good nutrition is widely known to contribute to a healthy body and mind. It’s less well known that when we sleep better we’re more likely to eat better. When we’ve not slept well, we tend to eat irregularly, snack between meals, add too much seasoning to our food and eat fewer vegetables.
Studies show that poor sleep causes a 24% increase in hunger ratings, a 23% increase in appetite and a 33% increase in desire for high fat, high carbohydrate foods.
It has been posited that we are designed to crave and consume high fat and sugary foods as a protective mechanism; a way to ready our bodies for the hungry winter to come. In pre-industrial times, we would consume large quantities of food during the summer, when food was plentiful, in order to put on weight in preparation for surviving the winter, which was essentially a time of famine.
Long day lengths signal to the body that it is summer which prompts us to consume more. The problem is, in modern times, days are ‘long’ all year round and we never experience the ‘famine’ of winter which would reset the balance, helping us maintain a healthy weight across the year.
When we prioritise sleep, and make sure we get enough, improving our eating habits becomes a lot easier.
Despite the endless promotion of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, these public health messages seem to be having no effect in reducing levels of obesity, which continue to rise.
Obesity is a major public health problem across the developed world and is associated with an increased risk of a number of common diseases including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Evidence shows how short or poor quality sleep is linked to increased risk of obesity by de-regulating appetite, leading to increased energy consumption. There is an association between short sleep duration and being overweight in both adults and children. Those who sleep for less than seven hours a night are likely to have a higher BMI than those who regularly get enough sleep for their needs.
It would be wrong and misleading to suggest that sleep alone is a miracle weight loss cure. However, good sleep is the very foundation of good health. When we sleep well we’re much more likely to consume a healthy diet and sleep provides us with the energy and motivation needed to allow us to exercise effectively.
Perhaps we’d begin to win the battle against obesity if these messages referenced the importance of sleep for a healthy mind and body.
We all know that physical activity is good for us. However, too few of us recognise the important role of sleep in allowing us to reach our exercise goals. Studies show that people who have trouble sleeping at night, or feel excessively sleepy during the day, have less energy and a reduced desire to be physically active.
We’re much more likely to sleep well at night if we’ve been awake and active during the day and outdoor exercise is more sleep promoting than indoor exercise.
Exercise can improve your sleep, and sleeping well can help you to reach your exercise goals.
If you’re hoping to be healthier happier you in the New Year - make sure to get some sleep!
Find out if you’re sleeping well enough by completing a short questionnaire.