Sleep Specialist Olivia Arezzolo reveals how sleep can help you tone up, lose fat and reduce cravings for sugar
When it comes to toning up, sleep heightens your metabolic rate, preserves lean muscle mass and optimises the hormone responsible for post workout recovery (it’s human growth hormone, for the biology lovers out there) (1). As a result, you’re able to train harder, more consistently and you’ll more readily see definition.
Second, with respect to fat loss, clinical trials show that when controlling for diet and exercise variables, individuals sleeping 8.5 hours lost 55% more body fat than when they were sleeping 5.5 hours (2). No small numbers here!
Third, another study reported a 33-45% reduction in cravings for sugary carbohydrates under sleep deprived conditions, reflective of the bodies attempt to re-energise and avoid that flat, fatigued feeling that comes with a sh*t night sleep (3).
So… basically if you’re:
a) training hard and want faster results
b) want to lose fat easier
c) wanting greater control over your willpower without any extra effort on your behalf
Sleep is your new best friend.
Here are my suggestions for the best rest of your life?
Take time to unwind! Set aside 1 hour for relaxation pre bedtime which involves nothing demanding or stimulatory – that means no TV, laptop or phones. Start the hour with a ‘switch off shower’ which reminds you that it’s time to switch off, and then engage in a relaxing activity – meditation and listening to tranquil music are my go-to’s.
Reduce sugar. Shown to have a similar effect in the brain as opiates such as heroin (not joking, see this study here (4)), the white powder heightens anxiety, restlessness and an inability to switch off. Opt for stevia in your teas, whole fruit over dried / juices (as whole fruit has fibre as well it takes longer to digest, meaning you don’t get as much of a ‘rush’) and be mindful of natural sugars too – once inside the body, it still provides a massive dose of energy, as well as the symptoms above. Given that stress and anxiety is the #1 reason to cause sleeplessness, avoiding sugar is a key strategy for success.
Keep cool at night (esp. in summer!). In order for the sleepiness inducing hormone melatonin to be produced we must have a cool body temperature. This is the reason we are advised not to exercise or have hot showers too close to bed! At the start of summer, we can forget how hot it becomes and then suddenly – we’re unable to sleep. Do yourself a favour and get a fan, or for those who have, be sure to set your air con accordingly.
Get moving outside in the morning. Perfect for those who share my love for the sunrise outside Bondi Icebergs, exposure to morning sunlight suppresses melatonin, which as you learnt in point 3, otherwise makes us sleepy. Plus, it’s a time to get outside and move your body, enjoy that beautiful beach view and high 5 all of your mates running along the beach (self included). Even 10 minutes of a gentle walk is sufficient to improve morning energy, and that’s before you’ve ordered a (delicious) bulletproof from Cali Press.
Whatever your motivation – fat loss, energy, metabolic boost – realise that sleep is your secret weapon and you should use it to your advantage. It’s free, available anytime and feels great – what’s not to love about that?
Written by Sleep Specialist + Model Olivia Arezzolo