Sleep and its Impact on Your Health


I could see it on his face. I was disappointing Max, the strength coach I trust with putting me through the ringer once a week at Hardpressed.

“Are you burning the midnight oil?” he asked.

I talked through my schedule, noting that I was sleeping enough to keep me alive during my waking hours, but my sleep schedule wasn’t ideal.

“How’d you know?” I asked.

“It’s in the numbers,” he said, which is a pretty nice way to say that I wasn’t moving the weights that I normally could. My lack of sleep was making me weaker and you can’t argue with the data.

Busy people have been seeking answers to the question, “What’s more important: sleep or exercise?”

TIME answered that question with the help of researchers and doctors who study the relationship between sleep and exercise. Cheri Mah, a sleep medicine researcher at Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco said, “When you look at the research, regular physical activity is important for high-quality sleep, and high-quality sleep is important for physical performance.”

The answer is both, but Mah goes on to say that if she was pressed to choose, she would select sleep.

“Sleep is the base on which a healthy mind and body stand,” she explains. “From your immune function to your mood, energy, appetite and dozens of other health variables, if that base is wobbly, your health will suffer.”

And so will your workouts. In a study in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, poorer sleep quality and decreased total sleep time were associated with lower performance in health-related physical fitness assessment among college students.

The brain fog, the lethargy and the extra hunger pangs that you experience when you’re tired are your body operating at a sub-optimal level. Your lack of sleep isn’t just depriving you of the rest your body needs to rebuild and hit the gym again – it’s changing the hormonal balance of your body.

In an article by Fitness Magazine, James Herdegen, MD, medical director of the Sleep Science Center at the University of Illinois in Chicago says “When you don’t get enough [sleep], your body appears to require more insulin to maintain normal glucose levels.”

What does that mean? Less sleep can elevate your risk of diabetes “to a degree roughly equivalent to gaining 20 to 30 pounds, according to a 2007 study at the University of Chicago.”

Sleeping seven hours each night is recommended by the piece in Fitness Magazine, and the risk of diabetes is elevated for those getting six hours of sleep or fewer each night.

So how can you improve your nightly sleep session? Treat rest as though it were as important as your biggest meeting of the year:

1. Set aside time for it. Make yourself a getting-ready-for-bed deadline. Tell yourself that you will be in your bathroom brushing your teeth – don’t forget to floss – and washing your face by 10:30 pm if your alarm is set to go off at 6 am. By allowing a half hour between your deadline and when you actually need to be asleep, you can ease yourself into bed.

2. Remove distractions. Take the screens out of the equation. According to a study quoted by Scientific American, two hours of iPad use at maximum brightness was enough to suppress people’s normal nighttime release of melatonin, a key hormone in the body’s clock, or circadian system. Another screen to push aside? Your cell phone. Move your charger away from your bed. Turn your phone to do-not-disturb mode. Don’t worry, parents, you can set your phone to still ring if you’re worried that you kids might call.

3. Set yourself up for success. Turn down the temperature of your home, put on your most comfortable PJs and stretch.

Get cozy and close those peepers, it will be the best investment of time that you make in your fitness routine this week.

Let us know!

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About Jeana Anderson Cohen

Jeana Anderson Cohen is the founder and CEO of a premiere wellness media destination that creates content and community to help womxn live better lives and achieve their goals. Before founding health-focused companies Jeana earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison - and fresh out of college she worked on the '08 Obama campaign in Michigan. From there, she created and executed social media strategies for brands. aSweatLife fuses her experience in building community and her passion for wellness. You can find Jeana leading the team at aSweatLife, trying to join a book club, and walking her dog Maverick.

3 thoughts on “Sleep and its Impact on Your Health

  1. Related: read this and started using my sleep tracking app again this week (it mainly works as a means to get me to bed earlier because I become super conscious about my sleep time). Also, I obviously don’t want to disappoint Max. (I’ll be back at HP after this marathon… sometime… when I gain the courage to go back)..

  2. I definitely needed to see this today, Jeana. I’m so bad at making sure I get my 7-8 hours. i worked out with max yesterday and was dragging the whole time! the 4.5 hours of sleep sunday night probably didn’t help :o) see also: the wine I had over the weekend but you know how that is

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