Hormones and Sleep: How they affect your weight loss, health, training adaptations and recovery.
We all know sleep is good for the mind, but how important is it for the body? Short answer: very important. Hormones and sleep greatly affect your health, training recovery and weight loss. However, when planning training regimes and structuring weight loss programs, a good night’s sleep will generally be an afterthought. If you’re serious about your health and fitness goals, sleep should be at the top of the priority list.
The Role of Sleep in Hormone Balance
Sleep is incredibly important for vital hormone release and vice versa, sleep deprivation can be a factor in many lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity from changes in metabolically active hormones and mental health issues due to excessive stressors placed on the body. Your body desperately needs routine in the form of your circadian rhythm to function at its best, and your circadian rhythm and sleep are largely governed by hormone release (O’connor & Youngstedt, 1995).
What To Do and What To Avoid
By eating well throughout the day, exercising to increase your sleep drive, avoiding cortisol inducing activities and foods before bed, and getting to bed at a decent hour, then you should sleep well. A full night of sleep will optimise hormone release and reinforce your circadian rhythm. A recent study showed that when exercising at moderate to high intensity daily in the morning through to afternoon, participants enhanced utilisation of anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormones whilst sleeping. This means you will sleep well again, night after night, which will in turn assist in growth and repair of muscles, better performance, achieving your ideal body weight and seeing the best results from your training.
Beware of rising levels of cortisol and excessive adrenal stressors in the night hours. High intensity exercise within two hours of sleep time may impede sleep. Stressful exercise may include maximal training efforts or high intensity volume loads at later hours of the night, along with caffeinated drinks or supplements. With darkness comes your body’s ability to relax and find the stillness it craves. The hormone melatonin is released, leading to a quality sleep. This is where our tissues grow, and energy is restored assisted by hormones such as Prolactin and Growth Hormone.
Get To Know Your Hormones
Leptin and Grehlin: Appetite is controlled by the release of these two hormones. Quality sleep results in the balance of these two.
Cortisol: The hormone that tells our body to wake up and eat everyday.
Prolactin and Growth Hormone: Two hormones that are crucial for training adaptions and recovery.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone which is secreted by the pineal gland at night. It promotes normal sleep.
If your body has a good sleep pattern, your hormones will work effectively and vice versa. So remember that while you need to work hard to achieve your health and fitness goals, you also need to rest hard!
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Words by Sam Larkings
Accredited Exercise Physiologist
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- O’Connor, P.; Youngstedt, S. Influence of Exercise on Human Sleep. Exercise & Sport Sciences Reviews: Jan 1995;23-1:105-134
- Leger D, Laudon M, Zisapel N. Nocturnal 6-sulfatoxymelatonin excretion in insomnia and its relation to the response to melatonin replacement therapy. Am J Med 2004;116:91-5.