If you ask anyone how to lose weight and improve your health they’ll probably say something like, “eat less and exercise more.” It’s a typical line that should immediately alert you to the fact that the person you’re talking to is not an expert.

I’ve written at length about the problems with “eating less” and “exercising more.” We’re not going to rehash that here. I’d rather introduce you to the importance of sleep, which is something nobody seems to talk about. Ever.

But if you had a weight loss and health puzzle, sleep would be a single piece that makes up close to 30% of that puzzle. It’s a big freakin’ piece.

To top it off, most people have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing when it comes to sleep. They’re making dozens of errors that negatively affect sleep throughout the day and they’re sleeping in an environment that’s disordering their sleep patterns.

Why? For one, our society has been set up to see sleep as a weakness. Instead of acknowledging its importance, it’s seen as a roadblock to productivity and the bottom line. That crazy view of sleep undermines everything.

To put it bluntly, sleep quantity and quality in modern society is an unmitigated disaster. Lack of sleep (both quantity and quality) is driving weight gain and disease just as much as poor eating is. And both are more important than how much exercise we’re getting.

The most important point I want to drill home here is that even if you dial in nutrition and exercise, lack of sleep can make it impossible to drop excess fat and will harm your health regardless. It’s that important. You can’t continue to ignore it.

How Lack of Sleep Makes You Fat and Sick

Let’s look at just ONE quick example how of how a lack of sleep destroys your health and makes you fat…

One of the five pillars of health and fat loss is hormone regulation. Lack of sleep disorders key hormones that regulate blood sugar and fat storage.

First, getting 6 or less hours of sleep per night makes your body function like a type II diabetic the following day. Your tolerance for carbohydrates and sugar plummets and your cravings go crazy. This is a recipe for weight gain.

Second, lack of sleep disorders the hormone cortisol which has the side effect of storing belly fat. And if this happens constantly you’ll experience chronic inflammation — the soil that preventable disease grows from. 

That’s just one of dozens of examples I could give. I don’t think you need more — you get it.

How to Beat A Bad Night of Sleep

I want to give you some actionable advice for beating a bad night sleep so you can mitigate some of the damage. Here’s a quick five step checklist:

  1. Since your body functions like a type II diabetic after a poor night of sleep, you need to eat like one. No sugar, no grains, no starches — eat low carb because your body can’t tolerate anything else.
  2. Take an extra 5000 IU of Vitamin D as poor sleep reduces immune function and Vitamin D is an immune modulator.
  3. Take 800mg of Vitamin C.
  4. Take up to two 20 minute naps. It’s important that these naps are not longer than 20 minutes as naps that approach 30 minutes can lead to sleep inertia and leave you more tired and groggy.
  5. Go to bed an hour earlier the following night.

Let me be a good coach now and say that you have to stop being reactive though. You can’t just keep mitigating the damage. You have to approach sleep proactively. When clients come to me and say, “my progress has stalled — I’m eating right and exercising and the fat won’t budge” I always ask, “what’s your sleep like?” Nine times out of ten they’ve completely ignored sleep and when they get their sleep back in order, all of their progress resumes.

Evan Brand (notjustpaleo.com) and I have written an action guide called REM Rehab: Reboot Your Sleep, Feel Amazing, and Light Your Productivity On Fire. It’s the third leg of the health and fat loss stool: nutrition, exercise, and sleep. It’s PACKED with everything you need to know — with clear actionable advice — for mastering restorative sleep. Click here to download it.

Founder of Rebooted Body and host of The Rebooted Body Podcast. Kevin helps men and women finally get a body and life they love with his unique blend of real food, functional movement, and psychology. To work with him personally, choose a program.

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