Have you ever followed a food and exercise plan only to not get the results you were hoping for?

Sleep may be the missing link.


Think about the last time you went to sleep… maybe you’re reading this as you just wake up. Maybe you’re a little tired? Sleep is necessary for energy conservation, brain and muscle rest and repair, and is the means of essential resting time for the whole body and its systems. Quality sleeps helps mental and physical health, improves quality of life and increases safety. They way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re asleep - your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain physical health.


Good health = good nutrition, good exercise and good sleep.


Sleep helps the brain prepare for the next day. While you sleep, your brain is forming new pathways to learn and remember information. Not only does quality sleep help you to pay attention during the day, it also helps you make decisions and be creative. REM or relaxed eye moment is where your muscles are relaxed and recent memories may be consolidated in the brain. This is usually when dreaming occurs.


Sleep deficiency has been linked to depression, suicide and risk-taking behaviour. Lack of motivation has also been linked - have you ever tried dieting when you’re in a bad mood, sick or hungry? Chances are it didn’t work too well. Deficiency is also linked to mood swings, anger, impulsive behaviours and problems with getting along with others.


Our immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy – ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way our immune system responds against foreign or harmful substances. Quality sleep helps with healing and repairing the heart and blood vessels. Deep sleep triggers the hormone that promotes normal growth in children/teens as well as boosting muscle mass and repairing cells and tissues for everybody. Deficiency can be linked to obesity as it messes with the healthy balance of hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). Not enough sleep causes ghrelin levels to go up and leptin levels to go down. Insulin (blood glucose/sugar) levels are generally higher when sleep is deprived causing higher than normal blood sugar levels that can cause diabetes.


When resting our body uses a majority of our energy requirements – 60% of our daily calories are burned up just doing this! We use this energy for breathing, keeping the heart pumping, growing and maintaining cells as well as maintaining body temperature. Add 10% for digestion, absorbing and storing food – also known as DIT or diet induced thermogenesis. Add that up and you’re looking at 70% of your total energy used just for maintenance, the other 30% for exercise. Cutting sleep while dieting leads to a decrease in BMR, therefore the ability to lose fat is reduced. Sleep deprivation causes the body to burn lean muscle tissue rather than fat tissue to conserve energy.


What you may have already picked up on is that sleep deficiency is definitely not good for us. There are two types of sleep deficiency – instant and gradual/over time. Ongoing deficiency will put you at a high risk of chronic health problems including an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Instant is where you’ve maybe had 1 or 2 bad nights of sleep and suddenly how you think, react, work, learn and get along with others is jeopardized. The ability to control your metabolism and appetite are put at risk as the metabolic system is put under stress.


Adequate sleep plays a key part in creating and living a healthy lifestyle. Our productivity is lowered, reactions slowed and mistakes can be made easily.


So what exactly causes sleep deprivation?

-       Stress (this is number 1!)

-       School or job pressures

-       Family or marriage problems

-       Illness or death in the family

-       Alcohol or caffeine in the afternoon or evening

-       Irregular morning or night schedules

-       Travel (jet lag)

-       Comfort in bed (actual bed itself or habits of sleeping partner)



-       Exercise to reduce stress

-       Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule

-       Don’t drink or eat caffeinated products 4-6 hours before bed

-       Avoid smoking, particularly near bedtime or if you wake in the night

-       Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep

-       Minimise noise, light and excessive hot or cold temperatures

-       Develop a regular bed time

-       Stop hitting snooze!