Confession time: Do you sacrifice sleep in order to get everything done during the day?
In our go, go, go world, many people do – and for some reason, it seems like people wear their lack of sleep like a badge of honor.
How many times have said something like this?
“I only slept like three hours last night. Need to mainline the coffee today.” Or, “Why can’t I lift as much today? I know I had a solid four hours of sleep, so I don’t understand the problem.”
I really hate to break it to you, but skimping on sleep isn’t helping you excel in life or at work – and it’ll hamper your progress in the gym, big time. You can maintain the perfect diet and spend multiple hours on strength training and cardio, but miss out on sleep consistently and all of that work will go to waste.
Why Sleep is Important
In short, sleep is how your body replenishes itself after a long day of hustling.
A night full of zzz’s is vital for physical health. Your body uses your sleeping hours to repair the muscle fibers you break down during strength training. Sleep is also involved in improving the strength of your heart and blood vessels, two very, very important parts of your body.
Aside from physical help, sleep also helps your brain form new pathways that help you remember and retain information. A good snooze makes it easier to pay attention to life’s important details and aids in learning and decision-making.
Losing even one to two hours a sleep over a couple of nights can affect your ability to function at its optimal level.
What Lack of Sleep Does to Your Body
OK, this is pretty scary: According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, consistent sleep deprivation increases your risk of developing heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other scary problems that could ultimately cost you your life.
Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. The reason? Sleep helps your body regulate the production of two important hormones in your body, leptin and ghrelin.
Ghrelin is released through your stomach and stimulates your appetite, while leptin is produced by fat cells and suppresses hunger. A lack of sleep lowers your body’s leptin and increases ghrelin levels, which increases your appetite, while getting enough sleep is like a natural appetite suppressant.
Sleep also helps your body regulate the production of cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands located on top of the kidneys. Cortisol stimulates the breakdown of protein into glucose. If you have too much cortisol, your body breaks more protein down into glucose. In turn, too much glucose in the body turns into fat. If that wasn’t enough, too much cortisol makes it difficult for your body to build muscle mass. Skipping out on sleep is like turning your body into a cortisol factory.
Not to mention, a lack of sleep lowers your body’s ability to perform cognitively. Your brain doesn’t have enough time to repair, so you can’t remember important things – like where you left your cell phone and key information for your final exam.
And your moods? Let’s just say people will steer clear of you if you’re cranky from a lack of sleep.
So, How Many Hours of Sleep Do Your Really Need Each Night?
There’s a reason why many, many smart people recommend getting eight hours of sleep a night: it works. Typically, most people need anywhere from seven to nine hours a night to feel rested and ready for the day ahead.
One way to find out the right number of hours for you is to take some time, like on a weekend, when you don’t have any commitments. Try to stay away from coffee, wine and any other stimulants and let your body get tired naturally. (Note: This includes your cellphone! The artificial light interrupts your body’s ability to get sleepy! Try to avoid cell phone use for at least one hour before bed)
Then, sleep until your body naturally wakes you up. That’ll typically give you a good idea of how many hours you need.
Whatever you do, just make sure you’re sleeping! Turn in your no-sleep badge and trade it in for hours of quality time with your bed, blanket and comforter each night. Your body will thank you.