You’re a few weeks into your best exercise training and matching it to some great nutrition. All of a sudden you start to feel irritable, listless, you’re getting weaker and to top it all off now you’re getting sick!

It feels like the wheels have come off.

What’s going on?

There might be one variable you've overlooked.

Not enough sleep could be derailing your progress.

Between work, family, and gym life it seems that sleep is the one thing people don’t mind cutting back on. The fewer hours we spend sleeping, the more hours we can spend doing other things, right?

Not so fast.

Have you ever stopped to think what happens when you skimp on your sleep?

Once thought of as a period of complete inactivity, sleep is now recognized as a period of rest for the body however heightened activity for the brain. The simple act of falling asleep though does not guarantee that the body and brain will be rejuvenated. You see, not all sleep is created equal.

There are 2 main states of sleep: REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement). These two main divisions are distinct in their physical, neurological and psychological characteristics. NREM sleep precedes REM and is broken down into stages one though three. Interruptions in NREM sleep affect tissue repair and immune function, while interruptions in REM sleep mainly affect mental functioning.

A normal sleep pattern follows a cycle of NREM stage 1, 2, 3, 2, and then REM. This cycle lasts roughly 90 minutes and repeats itself 4-6 times. A typical adult will spend 75% of sleep time in NREM sleep.

In today’s society with scores of us either working in front of computers or working shifts, we are unnaturally lengthening the hours of our “daylight exposure” which, in turn, disrupts our circadian rhythms. University of California-San Francisco neurologist Louis Ptacek, who studies circadian rhythms, genes, and sleep behaviors has been quoted as saying: "It's not surprising, we have evolved on a planet that is rotating every 24 hours. Our internal clock is more than just when we sleep and wake. It's related to cell division and it regulates our immune systems. When we battle our internal clock, that has complications."[1]

Sleep deprivation has been shown to greatly impact the functioning of our hypothalamus, the part of the brain that links the nervous system and the endocrine system. Among other things, the hypothalamus is responsible for controlling body temperature, hunger, thirst, fatigue, sleep and circadian rhythms. Negatively impact this structure and we negatively impact memory formation as well as bone and muscle repair.

Hypothalamic dysfunction can also lead to immunosuppression, impaired glucose tolerance, weight gain, increased blood pressure, and a drop in circulating thyroid and anabolic hormones. In fact, Donga et al. demonstrated that just one night of partial sleep deprivation was enough to decrease insulin sensitivity as well as other metabolic pathways in healthy individuals [3].

Other hormones such as leptin and ghrelin (which are involved in hunger signaling) are also affected after just one night of less than optimal sleep. Continue in this manner and type II diabetes is sure to be in your future [4].

What does all of this have to do with you?

Dr Paul Cribb always says, each one of us is nothing more than a Hairy Bag of Chemical Soup! To create Metabolic Precision and turn that bag of chemical soup into the body of your dreams, sleep is a key factor for correct muscle anabolism (recovery) and fat utilization for fuel. If you are skimping on your sleep, you are messing with the hairy bag of chemical soup - turning your metabolism toward fat storage and muscle loss- the exact OPPOSITE of what you are aiming for!

Think you are set with 6 hours of sleep? Think again. Researchers estimate that 3% of the population may contain a gene that enables them to function at normal levels after having only 6 hours of sleep. That means that 97% of us are left in a chronic sleep deficit having only 6 hours of shut-eye each night. For optimal health (read: to be healthy, lean and happy) the NIH recommends the following:

In a nutshell, losing sleep causes us to feel hungry (even though we aren’t), increase our caloric intake, store more of these calories as fat and burn fewer calories throughout our day regardless of the exercise we do.

We gain weight and slowly start down a road toward diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, and cardiovascular disease. All of this happens in HEALTHY individuals. What happens in unhealthy individuals? The same thing, only to a greater extent- a recipe for disaster for sure.

Members of can download a full-length feature audio by Michelle, Everything you Wanted to Know About Sleep.


1. Allday E, Chronicle Staff Writer (24 March 2008). "Keeping the 'grave' out of 'graveyard shift'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
2.Vecsey C. Peixoto L. Choi J. Wimmer M. Jaganath D. Hernandez P. Blackwell J. Meda K. ,Park A. Hannenhalli S. Abel T. Genomic analysis of sleep deprivation reveals translational regulation in the hippocampus. Physiol. Genomics 44:981-991, 2012.
3. Donga E. van Dijk M. van Dijk J. Biermasz N. Lammers G, van Kralingen K. Corssmit E. Romijn J. A Single Night of Partial Sleep Deprivation Induces Insulin Resistance in Multiple Metabolic Pathways in Healthy Subjects. JCEM 2010 95: 2963-2968; doi:10.1210/jc.2009-2430
4.Spiegel K, Knuston K, Leproult R, Tasali E, and Van Cauter E. Sleep loss: a novel risk factor for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. J Appl Physiol 99: 2008 –2019, 2005.
5. Schmid, S. M., Hallschmid, M., Jauch-Chara, K., Born, J. and Schultes, B. (2008), A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feelings of hunger in normal-weight healthy men. Journal of Sleep Research, 17: 331–334
6. Wehrens S. Hampton S. Finn R. Skene D. Effect of total sleep deprivation on postprandial metabolic and insulin responses in shift workers and non-shift workers. Journal of Endocrinology (2010) 206, 205–215

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