The Health Benefits of a Good Night's Sleep

How poor sleeping habits can negatively affect your health and fitness goals

Now that Netflix has our undivided attention for the amount of time that it takes to finish watching an entire season of a TV show in one sitting, getting a good night’s sleep seems inconsequential. Shutting the TV off before you find out who Frank Underwood will abolish next is just not an option.

Although it’s satisfying to finally be all caught up with your favorite TV show, (or your never-ending emails, or your RSS feed, or whatever else is keeping you up late at night) aside from feeling like a zombie by the time 3 p.m. rolls around the next day, missing out on sleep can be quite detrimental to your health and even hinder your weight loss goals.

“Missing out on a night of good sleep—and good sleep means good quantity and quality—can decrease your focus and attention, negatively affect your memory, and make you more prone to make mistakes,” says Alcibiades Rodriguez, M.D., the Adult Sleep Director at the New York Sleep Institute and assistant professor of Neurology at New York University School of Medicine.

If you’ve ever neglected a night of quality sleep, then the above probably isn’t news to you. But Rodriguez also notes that some studies have linked poor sleep habits with increased infections and inflammation in the body, and not to mention, a decreased drive to exercise because of low energy levels.

Not only will a lack of sleep make you less likely to workout, but it can also affect your appetite; a factor that very few people with weight loss goals fail to consider.

“Sleep helps to regulate appetite, metabolism and energy expenditure. When we sleep too little, we produce more ghrelin, a hormone secreted by the stomach that tells the brain that we want to keep eating, and less leptin, a hormone that tells the brain we’re full and satisfied,” says Rebecca Q. Scott, PhD, a sleep specialist at the New York Sleep Institute and an Assistant Research Professor in the NYU School of Medicine.

“Regardless of the amount of calories we’ve consumed, when we don’t get enough sleep we’re more likely to have cravings (usually for carbs, sweets and salty food) and have less resolve to resist giving in to those cravings than if we’re well-rested,” she adds.

Scott also notes that skipping out on quality sleep causes an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and impaired immunity.

Athletes and exercisers should especially pay attention to their sleep habits because quality sleep on a consistent basis is imperative for muscle repair and injury prevention.

“Good sleep improves stamina—both mental and physical—stabilizes hormones, improves endurance and speed, and also aids in muscle memory,” says Scott.

Whether you have a weight loss goal, you’re aiming to improve your fitness, or you’re simply trying to embrace a healthier lifestyle, it’s clear that in addition to regular exercise and a balanced diet, quality sleep on a consistent basis is an equally important part of the puzzle.

Scott recommends aiming for 7-8 hours every night and points out that people who sleep less than 6 hours a night typically have a higher body mass index than those who achieve the optimal amount.

That means, if you’re committed to your health and fitness goals you’ll disconnect from your devices (yes, even the TV) at a decent hour and get a good amount of shuteye before your alarm goes off.

No one said it’d be easy to break your old habits, but you’ll feel so refreshed and energized the next day that it will certainly be worth it.