When asked to define the components of a fitness program, very few people would say sleep. The common responses are; exercise, nutrition, hydration, and then (at best) sleep is a distant fourth.
The importance of sleep is so misunderstood that I get replies like, “There’s plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead” or “Sleep, who has time for that?” I hope, for your sake, that after you read this post you will make an attempt to get at least seven to nine hours a sleep per night, or you could actually lose precious time off your life span. Melodramatic you say? Let’s take a look at some scientific research on lack of sleep from the National Sleep Foundation.
I think we can all agree that a fitness routine should encompass and maintain a healthy lifestyle which includes proper balance between body fat and muscle weight. But if you do not get the appropriate amount of sleep, the actuality of that might backfire. A great mantra to embrace is, “snooze to lose.” That’s right, there are numerous studies that state lack of sleep can cause weight gain because of the imbalances of certain peptides that control appetite. The peptide Leptin signals satiety, while Ghrelin activates hunger. Lack of sleep depresses Leptin, and you tend to eat more because your Ghrelin peptides increase.
If this sounds complicated, sleep on it. Studies say you actually increase cognizant skills with the appropriate amount of sleep. Major research has been done concerning some of our world wide catastrophes that were associated with sleep deprivation. You may remember Chernobyl and the Valdez to name two world renowned disasters that were highly publicized. In both cases a cut back in crew and staff led to increased hours to work shifts and a reduction in sleep. Their decision process was compromised and led to late reactionary responses ending in disasters. So the bottom line here is, to prevent your professional or personal life from ending up stranded on a reef of undue complications or unnecessary blow-ups, get some sleep.
Lack of sleep can also contribute to inflammation within the body that can contribute to heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure and premature aging. This is due to the increases of c-reactive proteins within the body when there is inadequate sleep. Remember, life is demanding, to meet these demands and challenges you need to let your body rest to regain its homeostasis. A great way to think of this is that sleeping is like bringing you car to the mechanic for a tune-up. When you shut down the body quiets, but the brain becomes very active regulating hormones that control muscle repairs, lowering blood pressure, fight off infection and gives us the necessary boost to meet the new day alert and ready for our daily activities and challenges.
So now that I have listed many of the positive attributes to a good night sleep, I can hear the most obvious question as you read this, “who the heck can get eight hours of sleep with our very busy schedules?” Well how about a power nap? That’s right, just find a place where you can shut down for twenty minutes and woola!; the results are better than Red Bull energy drink. Many cultures throughout the world realize these benefits and prescribe to a nap in the afternoon. Unfortunately, our culture has yet to embrace the afternoon nap. It seems guilt is usually a deterrent to taking this brief time out from the hectic life style we all embrace, but if you can manage to get by this and empower yourself to get a nap, you might find yourself outliving all the nay sayers.
So if you are looking to enhance the quality of your life, try to embrace a little more sleep in it. Who knows, maybe you will find yourself to be more productive and healthier then with out it.
P.s. Sleep Awareness Week (put on by the National Sleep Foundation) was March 6-13. Click to view a larger version of their poster above: 7 Days 4 Better Sleep. It has seven helpful tips to getting better sleep.