Exercise and Weight Management
Sleep requirements change over the course of an individual’s life; therefore, guidelines are primarily based on one’s age. The National Sleep Foundation recommends up to 17 hours per day for newborns, and down to 6–8 for older adults. Advocates increased sleep time for those with particularly active lifestyles. There are also a series of sleep hygiene recommendations that can help you get the most out of your bedtime. The latest guidelines suggest not napping during the day to maintain normal patterns, avoiding stimulants later in the day, and establishing a consistent bedtime routine. One of the most important factors to keep in mind is that experts almost universally agree that attempting to “catch up” on sleep is a losing proposition. Even if you may initially feel more rested, following sleep deprivation with longer bouts of sleeping ultimately affects your circadian rhythms and may make it more difficult to set a consistent regimen. Like healthy eating and exercise, the effectiveness of sleep is highly dependent on consistency.
Lack of sleep can have significant metabolic and endocrine effects that may reduce or even completely undo the success of your weight management efforts. Cortisol, the “stress hormone” secreted during times when the “fight or flight” response mechanism is initiated, is proving to be one of the most important factors in both fat loss and lean muscle tissue gain. In fact, one recent study found that participants on a professionally designed diet and exercise program found it impossible to lose weight when not reaching sleep recommendations1. Cortisol levels influence body composition by inhibiting the processing of amino acids, obstructing growth hormone release, altering the proper regulation of blood sugar levels, and even making it more difficult to stick to diets.2 A 2010 study found that those functioning on less than optimal levels of sleep had higher levels of cortisol throughout the day, and subsequently had less success in their weight management efforts.3 If you are experiencing an otherwise unexplainable uptick on the scale, it may be time to reevaluate your sleeping patterns.
Recent research suggests that sleep deprivation may also sabotage your dieting efforts. Sleeping less than six hours has been shown to increase hunger, increase cravings for sweets, and ultimately may lead to weight gain.4,5 Sleep deprived individuals often exhibit several endocrine irregularities directly associated with appetite and weight regulation. Lack of sleep can increase the secretion of ghrelin, “the hunger hormone,” which regulates satiety and reward perception accompanying specific foods. Sleep deprivation appears to increase caloric consumption through two separate mechanisms, by increasing the sensitivity of the brain’s reward system for ingesting energy-dense foods and encouraging one to eat more in response to the extra energy expended while staying up as opposed to sleeping. If you are having difficulty sticking to your healthy diet goals, the culprit may be your sleeping patterns.
The amount and quality of sleep also may impact your workout performance. One recent study found that short-term sleep deprivation resulted in significantly decreased strength, power, and cardiovascular performance.6 After only a single night of less than adequate sleep, study participants exhibited characteristics similar to those suffering from overtraining, and the effects seemed to increase over time. Another study found that disturbed sleep patterns adversely affect cognitive function and reaction time, which can increase exercise accident risk.7 Furthermore, lack of sleep has been shown to be detrimental to exercise recovery, meaning you may need to exercise less and expend more effort on proactive recovery techniques to continue progressing and remain injury free.8 If you don’t feel like working out today or notice your intensity and performance waning, the first step should not be toward a stimulant, but your bed.
Progressing toward your fitness goals requires a lot of dedication, hard work, and even more rest. One of the most researched benefits of essential oils are their calming and relaxing properties. Including essential oils in your bedtime routine may be the extra push you need. A few drops of Lavender on your bedsheets and diffusing your favorite calming and grounding blend as you prepare for rest will create the calming sleep environment your body requires for recovery.
Recommended Essential Oils and Blends
- doTERRA Peace®
- doTERRA Serenity® Calming Blend
- Journal of Endocrinology. 2015; 27(1): 44-56
- Essential Pharmacology. 2005; 6(6):341-347
- Endocrine Development. 2010; 17: 11-21
- Annals of Internal Medicine. 2010; 153(7): 435-441
- Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013; 38(9): 1668-1674
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2013; 27(9): 2473-2480
- Asian Journal of Sports Medicine. 2012; 3(1): 15-20
- Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine.