Inadequate sleep reduces insulin sensitivity and makes you fat. Here's why and how to get more restorative sleep.
6 Hours of Sleep Sucks
Most people are sleeping less: one to two hours less than 60 years ago. Several studies show that over 30% of us are sleeping less than 6 hours a night.
In our brave new world, sleep has unfortunately become a luxury and trying to prioritize it is often looked at as lazy or weak. That's ironic, because people who don't sleep are actually getting fatter and weaker. Even if we looked past the compromised immunity and increased risk of degenerative disease and early death afforded by poor sleep, inadequate sleep negatively affects our ability to build strength and muscle.
Sleep releases growth hormone, and inadequate sleep is associated with higher levels of stress and lower levels of testosterone. Simply missing one hour of sleep per night (than what's optimal for you) prompts your brain to secrete cortisol and shift your body away from muscle building and toward fat storage.
Even in healthy young men, a poor night's sleep results in temporary glucose intolerance (insulin resistance) and an increase in food intake. In fact, consistent sleep deprivation results in an 18-20% decrease in leptin (which affects the feeling of being full) and a 24-28% increase in ghrelin (which affects hunger), both of which can lead to fat gain.
This may not sound like a big deal to disciplined lifters because they're convinced cutting calories is all they need to succeed, and "sticking to their macros" can solve all the world's problems. Too bad they don't know that inadequate sleep alters the composition of weight loss.
In a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine, participants were put on the same restricted diet but split into separate sleep groups. Both groups lost the same amount of weight, but in the group that only slept 5.5 hours a night, only 48% of the weight loss consisted of fat. Contrast that to the group that slept 8.5 hours a night: 80% of their weight loss was fat.
How to Fix It
- Keep the bedroom quiet, dark, and cold. Along with keeping your sleep environment as dark and quiet as possible, it should be relatively cold. When the room is too warm (upwards of 65 degrees), the body's natural response is to cool itself and sleep quality suffers.
- Use sleep-aid supplementation. Use a natural supplement like Z-12™ – which contains L-theanine, 5-HTP, and phenibut. The main workhorse in it is PhGABA, which interrupts the flow of stimulatory neurotransmitters that keep you restless and awake. Its other sleep-inducing mechanisms include increased production of the sleepy-time hormone serotonin and brain alpha-wave production, which promotes a relaxed mental state. Some people even use one capsule of Z-12 (instead of 2-3, the normal dosage before bed) for daily stress reduction.
- Make sleep a priority. The need for sleep varies, but there seems to be a sweet spot between 7 and 8 hours. A study in the journal Sleep analyzed 276 adults between the ages of 21 and 64 for six years and found greater weight gain in those sleeping fewer than 6 hours per night (4.36 pounds) and greater than 9 hours per night (3.48 pounds), compared to those sleeping between 7 and 8.
Though one could argue that sleeping too much may be a symptom of weight gain rather than a cause, it's clear that sleeping too little is a problem.