Everyone has heard the health and weight loss advice “eat better and exercise more.” Despite this, many still feel burned out, can’t drop those extra pounds, and have lost their energy and enthusiasm. What’s missing? Sleep is the third piece of the puzzle that many don’t consider.
How sleep works to rejuvenate the body and mind is still mysterious, but what sleep specialists do know is that adequate sleep is necessary for good health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an estimated 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, a condition that seriously affects one’s quality of sleep and is associated with obesity and many health risks. It’s unclear if weight-gain leads to sleep apnea or sleep apnea leads to weight-gain, but the two seem to compound each other. Daytime sleepiness lowers energy levels and makes it difficult to commit to diet and exercise. Added weight can lead to difficulties with breathing during sleep and result in restless nights. In addition, fatigue, sleep and hunger cues are similar. Thus, when they really feel sleepy many go for a snack instead of bed.
The good news is that exercise enhances sleep and better sleep will enhance your energy to exercise and eat better. Exercisers reported better sleep than those who consider themselves non-exercisers, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey, even when both groups get the same amount of sleep. Vigorous exercisers reported the best sleep of all. It appears that quality—not quantity—of sleep matters most, and exercise enhances people’s quality of sleep.
Though diet and exercise are critical to a healthy lifestyle, it’s also important to understand that sleep is inherently linked with how we eat (and how much), how we exercise (and its effectiveness), and how we function on a daily basis.
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