Ever had a long night of drinking where you get 3 hours of sleep? Then the next day you literally give zero fucks about what you eat?
I mean… uhh… not that I’ve ever done that...
Sleep is important, especially for fat loss. The body functions best on a full night’s sleep. Killer workouts, optimal recovery, and amazing results all come from solid sleep habits.
The funny thing about getting more sleep is you don’t realize how dysfunctional and unproductive you are until you actually start getting 8 hours. At least, I certainly didn’t.
“Welp, I’m not actually a complete emotional wreck. I just need to get 8 hours of sleep a night. Innnteresstinggg.”
Billions of years of evolution have created a body that needs 7-10 hours of sleep a night to function optimally. To metabolise calories optimally, to perform tasks optimally, and to optimise optimisation optimally.
Sleeping doesn’t make you lazy.
I know everyone wants to #hustle right now, but if you’re sleep deprived how good is the work you’re doing? Are you actually getting important things done, or are you just busy for the sake of being busy and feeling productive?
You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can crank out quality work once you make sleep a priority.
And I know what you’re thinking:
“Psh. I only need 4 or 5 hours a night and I’m good.”
You and everyone else.
I highly doubt EVERYONE is the exception to the rules billions of years of natural selection have created. That’s not how rules work.
Better sleep, better decisions.
Making healthy choices is hard enough as it is. After a grueling 8 + hours at work, it’s easy to forget how excited and motivated you were) to start cooking healthy meals at home. It’s easy to lose sight of the goals you were so driven about at the beginning of day.
This has nothing to do with discipline or any personality traits. This is just what happens when life kicks you around a bit and you work 40 + hours a week.
The siren song of convenience and comfort is all too alluring. Ordering something from Grub Hub is just SO easy! Because you don’t have any more energy or fucks left to give.
- You don’t want to cook.
- You don’t want to grocery shop.
- And you don’t want to sit in even more traffic on your way to the gym to do exercises you don’t feel like doing.
And it’s completely understandable. Humans can only do so much. If you use all that energy keeping your shit together at work, you burn yourself out by the end of the day.
Add in sleep deprivation to the mix and the task of choosing (protein + veggies) over (samosas + Ben & Jerry’s) becomes that much harder.
Conclusion: Change is hard and work is balls. But you want to lose body fat. So what do you do?
Lack of sleep makes change harder and work even more balls.
Changing your habits is trickier when your brain is all like ,"Give. Me. Energy!! I don’t care that you want your stomach to be flat again! Do you realize how exhausted I am?!"
Plus, chronic sleep deprivation does a bunch of bad shit to your hormones and metabolism. No bueno for long term health and/or fat loss.
Long story short, don’t neglect sleep. For fat loss this is the order of importance of what you should worry about:
“Ok, FINE. I get it! I’ll try and get more sleep. Sheesh! ”
Awesome! I’m stoked for you! Getting more sleep has been one of the most important changes I’ve made for my own emotional and physical health, so I’m thrilled you get to undergo this same revelation.
Seriously, you’ll be amazed how much easier it is to handle life’s daily battles on a full night’s rest.
Say a client considers 5 hours of sleep, “sleeping in”. It’s pretty much a sure thing that client can only go so far if they aren’t tackling their sleep habits. So I always encourage my clients to make sleep a priority.
"Wait a minute. What if I have trouble sleeping? What if my brain just doesn’t shut up? Like, ever."
Then you’re exactly who I wrote this post for. That’s me too. I hear you.
Sleep is an ongoing battle for me, which is one reason why I’m so passionate about it. Getting sleep is tough because you can’t muscle your way through it. You can’t be really determined and hyped up to get good sleep as you jump into bed, because then you won’t be relaxed.
Sometimes you just can’t sleep no matter what. I get that. There’s not much you can do about that. What you can do is build good sleep habits that greatly increase your chances of catching some quality zzz’s.
Basically you have to put in the effort to get good sleep if you want to get good sleep. Make it a priority and let’s figure this out.
What are some good sleep habits?
- Go to bed on time
- Be self aware. If you notice a particular activity gets you riled up, don’t do that anywhere near bedtime.i.e. don't get into a FB arguement with your racist uncle right before bed.
- Don’t bring work into bed. Treat your bed as something that is only for sleep and, ya know, other stuff.
- As much as I hate to say this: no coffee in the afternoon :’(
Taking action: How to implement good sleep habits.
When working on a habit (this goes for diet/exercise habits as well), pick something that’s completely within your control -- there shouldn’t be a single element of chance to it.
How you define this habit/mini goal is crucial for tracking progress and staying motivated.
I will eat vegetables at every meal this month (within your control)
I will lose 10 lbs this month (out of your control).
Because saying, "I want to lose 10 lbs" doesn’t give you a battle plan for losing those 10 lbs. It’s not specific enough. Action burns fat and builds strength. Make action the goal. You’ll reach the result far more quickly.
“Lose 10 lbs in a month” isn’t a good habit/mini-goal because you can’t control how fast fat loss happens, even if you’re diet and exercise is on point. This goal is luck based, not action based.
You know you need to eat lots of veggies to lose 10 lbs so that should be your habit. Obviously you’re not abandoning your goal of losing 10 lbs. You’re being smarter because you’re focused on taking action rather than wasting mental energy worrying about the number on the scale. You could be using that mental energy to do some lunges or meal plan.
Focus on putting in the effort to build the habits that gets the result, but not the result itself.
To reiterate (again): make your actions the goal.
So you can’t control how much sleep you get. Coming from someone who was wide awake from 2am-4am last night, this isn’t a choice. To some extent, it’s problematic to judge your progress of your new sleep habit based on how much sleep you’re getting on any given night. Just as with fat loss, it’s problematic to judge a diet based on one day’s scale weight.
Using this to build good sleep habits
What you CAN control is when you hop into bed, and your sleepytime environment. This way you at least have a chance. If you get in bed 5 hours before your alarm goes off, how the hell are you going to get 8 hours of sleep? It’s literally impossible.
Setting and following a bedtime that allows for adequate sleep is a habit that’s completely within the locus your control.
Base your bedtime on when you need to wake up. Get into bed 9ish hours before your alarm goes off. This should allow enough time to relax and drift off. If you want 8 hours, don’t crawl into bed 8 hours before you wake up.
More tips for dealing with a noisy brain that just won’t shut up once the lights go out.
As far as sleep quality goes, turn off all technology AT LEAST 30 minutes before bed. If you’re really tied to your technology, at least put the damn red filter on and dim the screen.
Taking a few minutes to just lie and focus on your breath (meditating: not just for hippies anymore!) can also do wonders for quieting your busy brain.
A sleep journal can also help. Leave a notepad and pen by your bedside. If you think of anything you need to remember for tomorrow, write it down and then just let it go.
Taking just a regular journal journal can also be good here to get your brain to quiet itself before hitting the hay.
None of these strategies are absolutes, some you may find work, others not so much. Try one of them at a time for 2 weeks and see how you feel.
More important than any single strategy is that you understand the importance of sleep and that you make it a priority, that you get rid of this silly notion that sleeping makes you lazy or that it interferes with your productivity.
You’ll be more productive when you have descent sleep because you’ll actually be getting shit done. And you won’t be wasting your precious free time perusing Facebook or being jealous of your friend's vacation on Instagram. You’ll spend that time reading, spending time with friends, or learning that skill you’ve been saying you’ve wanted to learn for years.
Beyond that, sleep is just insanely important for general health, for dealing with life, and for fat loss. Because you’ll make better dietary decisions, you’ll be able to push your workouts harder, and your metabolism will be more efficient.
While sleep might seem unrelated to fat loss, you’ll find that after a few weeks of solid sleep your jeans will fit differently.
Here’s how you’ll be successful with this
Make the behaviors that lead to good sleep, habitual so you become earth-shatteringly consistent.
Because results happen when you do something consistently enough for it to accumulate momentum. No one ever gained 5 lbs from one slice of pizza, or lost 5 pounds from 1 salad. Little decisions add up over time and eventually they compound, making this momentous snowball. It’s what you do day-in day-out that matters.
That said, once you get sleep under control, you’ve handled one of the biggest tenets of health and fat loss because every other decision becomes easier when you’re well rested.
It’s well worth the effort. It’s not as sexy as a detox or a waist trainer, but I assure you you’ll be much happier and more productive at working towards your dreams (pun intended) when you make sleep is a priority.