HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! The fireworks and noise makers and banging pots and pans (at least that’s what you’ll hear at my house) ring through the air at midnight. These sounds are inevitably followed by Auld Lang Sign and talk of our New Year’s Resolutions. (My resolution is to blog more… off to a good start, but we’ll see how it goes!) A common theme usually emerges of getting in shape, losing weight and generally living a healthier lifestyle. While cheap gym memberships tempt us, and healthy eating blogs abound, there seems to be one factor that is often ignored: sleep.

It’s true that sleep is linked to all parts of our health and well-being. We know we feel better when we’re well rested, and we know that as adults we really should be getting that regular 7-8 hours of uninterrupted slumber, but we don’t always know why, or how.

According to the Center for Disease Control, at least 30% of us are not getting the recommended amount of sleep. That’s over 100 million people in the U.S. who are sleep deprived, and as a result, sabotaging their own fitness goals.

You may know that exercise actually helps promote sleep, and not just because it wears you out. Exercise helps maintain your circadian rhythm (read: internal clock). Sticking with a regular exercise routine trains your body to stay on a schedule and helps it know when it’s time to sleep and time to rise. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that exercise can help you fall asleep faster, sleep deeper and wake up less during the night. Just avoid high intensity workouts immediately before bed, as it will take some time for your heart rate to decrease. W. Christopher Winter, MD, author of “The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It” points out in an article for Everyday Health that, “Physical activity creates more adenosine in the brain, and adenosine makes us feel sleepy. The harder we work out, the more driven we are by this chemical to sleep.” The article, “The Intimate Relationship Between Fitness and Sleep” also notes that, “Adenosine is the chemical that caffeine blocks to make you feel more alert.”

Not only does exercise help you sleep better, but sleep helps you exercise better. Poor sleep reduces the growth hormone. This hormone is needed to build lean muscle mass, reduce fat and improve cardiovascular health. In short, if you’re tired, your body will want to give up sooner. You will have less stamina to continue to workout and therefore get less benefit from those gym visits. Also, your body heals when you’re sleeping. Poor sleep means poor recovery. This fact also makes working out tougher, and can increase your risk of injury.

Lack of sleep also contributes to weight gain and sabotages weight loss. Sleep deprivation causes you to crave high calorie foods. Lack of sleep can make you feel hungry more often and eat larger portions. According to a shape.com article, “Why Sleep Is the No. 1 Most Important Thing for a Better Body”, poor sleep actually changes your fat cells. “Within just four days of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to properly use insulin (the master storage hormone) becomes completely disrupted. In fact, the University of Chicago researchers found that insulin sensitivity dropped by more than 30 percent. Here’s why that’s bad: When your insulin is functioning well, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from your blood stream and prevent storage. When you become more insulin resistant, fats (lipids) circulate in your blood and pump out more insulin. Eventually this excess insulin ends up storing fat in all the wrong places, such as tissues like your liver. And this is exactly how you become fat and suffer from diseases like diabetes.”

In short, better sleep means better exercise and better exercise means better sleep. If you’re resolving to do one, better to also resolve to do both. If you need tips on how to get better sleep, check out sleep tips here. As always, our factory-trained staff is here to help you find the perfect mattress for you, which alone can be a huge leap toward better sleep.