Why Sleep Is the Key to a Better Body (and How to Get More of It)


Eating right and working out might not matter if you’re not getting enough rest.

You’ve hit your stride at the gym. You’ve found your go-to healthy recipes. But you’re not seeing results. What gives? You may be undermining all of that hard work with an all-too-common habit: staying up too late and/or getting up too early. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 people is sleep-deprived, which means they’re not getting the recommended seven-to-eight hours a night required for adults. Getting more sleep can make you less cranky, and can also help you reach your fitness goals.

It keeps your hunger in check. One study showed that not getting enough zzz’s can rev up your appetite and cause you to overeat. The study found that short sleep durations were associated with higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that tells you that you’re hungry, and lower levels of leptin, a different hormone that helps you feel full. The result: Sleep-deprived people eat on average about 385 more calories a day, according to a systemic review of 17 studies on sleep and weight gain.

It makes weight loss easier. Not getting enough shut-eye can make it harder to lose weight, if that’s your goal. In one study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 10 participants were placed on a weight-loss diet. Those who slept 5 ½ hours a night lost 55 percent less fat than those who got 8 ½ hours.

It boosts your workout. Research has found that getting enough sleep makes you more likely to complete your exercise routine the next day. When you’re too tired, on the other hand, exercise could feel harder. One study found that just one all-nighter could negatively impact your treadmill workout.

It revs up your calorie burn. Scoring enough sleep can help your body torch more calories all day. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants who snoozed eight hours at night burned 5 percent more calories compared with their exhausted counterparts who stayed up all night.

It promotes healthy fat cells. In order for your cells to function properly, they need shut-eye, too. One study from the University of Chicago found that sleep helps regulate energy and metabolism, and that getting just 4 ½ hours of sleep can result in reducing your fat cells’ ability to respond to insulin, a hormone that regulates your blood sugar.

So how can you get more sleep, even with a crazy-busy schedule? These steps can help you snooze more soundly.

• Stick to a sleep schedule. Your internal clock likes a routine. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day, including the weekends.

• Unwind before bed. To help your body go into sleep mode, avoid super-stimulating activities right before bed. Instead, spend the hour before doing something relaxing. Having an evening ritual, such as gentle stretching or reading, can also help you transition from your busy day to bedtime.

{originally produced for Shape.com}