Doctors Say People Who Sleep In May Be On To Something When It Comes To Hitting Fitness Goals

*Hits the snooze button*

If you've ever felt guilty about sleeping in instead of heading to the gym, consider yourself off the hook ... kinda.  The extra sleep may just be the key to your fitness goals. According to health experts, getting your beauty rest does more good for you than exhausting yourself at the gym on little sleep. So you may want to think twice about that 5 a.m. workout if you went to bed after midnight. 

Of course, we're not saying  hitting the snooze button will get you a six-pack and buns of steel. Sleeping is great, but it isn't that magical. However,  it can definitely help keep the extra weight off. "Sleeping less than seven to eight hours per night is linked to higher percent body fat," Dr. Guy Meadows told Cosmopolitan UK. "Research suggests that people who average six hours per night are 27 percent more likely to be overweight." According to the doctor, folks who average even less hours of sleep are 73 percent more likely to be overweight. 

So what's the secret — why does sleep matter this much? The answer is in your hormones.  According to Dr. Meadows, two hormones play a huge role in our weight gain and appetite. "Ghrelin regulates our appetite and so how hungry we feel, whereas Leptin regulates the feeling of fullness, the cue to stop eating," explained Dr. Meadows. The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, which included 1,024 participants,  found that in people sleeping less than eight hours, increased BMI was proportional to decreased sleep. The researchers also found that shorter sleep times were associated with increased circulating Ghrelin and decreased Leptin, a hormonal pattern that is consistent with low energy expenditure and increased appetite and obesity. 

"Research demonstrates that after a poor night of sleep Ghrelin levels increase and Leptin levels decrease, meaning we feel more hungry and yet less full, hence why we tend to eat more," said Meadows. So yeah, that's why you're craving pizza at 2 a.m. (It's either that or because you're up watching yet another cooking competition show.)

Nutritionist Lily Soutter backed up Dr. Meadow's advice by saying less sleep can increase belly fat, which we all know is incredibly hard to get rid of. "Scientists have analyzed levels of the stress hormone cortisol in sleep-deprived subjects," Soutter told Cosmopolitan. "They found elevated levels of cortisol after a sleepless night, which was especially high between the hours of 4 and 9 p.m. High cortisol can signal for fat to be store around the middle."

So what if you're a hardcore gym-head who works out seven days a week? You still need your rest. Lack of sleep can actually weaken your stamina.  Your muscle tissues get to rest and repair during sleep. According to celebrity fitness expert and trainer Jesse Pavelka, "True health isn't about constantly abusing your body through extreme gym sessions or hours of pounding the pavement, but rather by giving yourself a bit of love in the form of rest. The repair happens when your eyes shut and you shut it all off. Be mindful and create the balances."

So the next time you're feeling bad about skipping the gym due to being sleepy, rest assured (literally) that you can do your body good by catching some zzz's. 

Cover image via Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

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