When we think of maintaining good health the first things that come to mind are nutrition and exercise.

Arguably though, good quality sleep is more important than the food we eat and the exercise we complete.

Exercise Physiologist, Jesse Chandler discusses the main reasons poor sleep can predict poor health outcomes.

Poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain and obesity.

People who sleep less or sleep poorly are more likely to weigh significantly more than people who sleep an adequate amount. Sleep deprivation is linked to a negative hormone disruption which impacts the ability to stay within a healthy weight range.

Our hunger hormone (ghrelin) can become spiked and our fullness hormone (leptin) can reduce. This disruption of ghrelin and leptin may impact the ability to feel satisfied after a meal and leave you feeling hungry, leading to more food being consumed (even if our body doesn’t need the extra energy).

Cortisol is a primary stress hormone released by the body and is essential for daily function. However, if we are sleep deprived our body tends to release more cortisol than necessary resulting in many negative consequences such as increased fat deposits and weight gain. Elevated cortisol can also lead to acne, irregular menstrual cycles in women and slow to heal skin.

Poor sleep can also decrease insulin sensitivity.

Over time, this can increase the risk of developing insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes. Insulin is responsible for transferring glucose from our bloodstream to cells in the body to be used as energy. As we become resistant to Insulin, blood sugar isn’t carried to the cells as well, resulting in elevated blood-sugar levels. This can lead to many negative health consequences such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, blindness and even limb amputation.

After a poor night’s sleep, we are more likely to wake feeling unrested, lethargic and unmotivated for the day ahead. Not only is this going to lower the chance of completing exercise for the day, it may also lead to poor nutrition choices. It becomes easy to choose energy dense foods high in sugar for a quick energy fix and caffeine late into the afternoon. This is going to result in poor sleep that night and the cycle continues.

Poor sleep patterns are also closely linked to mental health disorders, immune function and inflammatory conditions.

As you can see, good quality sleep is the underpinning factor in sustaining long term health. On the surface level it determines the level of activity throughout the day, and the types of food you choose to eat. More seriously though it can impact your metabolic, cardiovascular and mental health.

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