The Importance of Sleep
Why getting 8 hours can help with mood, weight loss, and muscle gains
After recently reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, Sleep is even more important than I once thought.
Some fascinating (and important) points Dr. Walker makes about sleep:
Roughly 30% of the population is comprised of night owls! Asking a night person to try and become a morning person is the same as telling a Powerlifter that he or she should start training for a marathon. They can try, but it won't be pretty.
Chronic lack of sleep has been tied to up to a 400% increase in certain types of cancers. In fact, the World Health Organization classifies working night shifts as a probable carcinogen.
Sleeping 6 hours or less a night on average, something 1 out of 3 people do, can raise your risk of getting cardiovascular disease by up to 500%. This is insane.
A lack of sleep has been shown to increase muscle break down by up to 300% and decrease physical performance by up to 400%. This is at least party because sleep is directly related to anabolic hormones like testosterone and growth hormone.
In a study on youth athletes, it was shown that the single best predictor of injury was sleep. Youth athletes getting 6 hours of sleep per night were 400% more likely to get injured than those getting 9 hours of sleep per night.
Sleep is hugely impactful on both short and long-term memory. Failing to get just one good night of sleep can decrease your ability to recall what you learned in the previous day by up to 50%.
There's a ton more stats like this covered in the book (I highly recommend reading it yourself), but the bottom line is that sleep is massively important. Not just for our fitness and performance, but for our physical and mental health.
Getting in the gym and training hard day in and day out only does one thing - increase the need for sleep. That means that sleep is even more important for you than the average person, whose idea of cardio is walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. And most of them don't even do that much.
In other words, if you want to improve your fitness, you can probably start by getting more sleep.
Here are my personal strategies for getting better sleep:
1. Choose a bedtime, and stick to it!
Setting the circadian to a consistent 8-9 hours is huge for you mood and energy. Just know that it won’t change in a day or even a week. But if you stay consistent over time, it will become natural and your body will thank you for it.
TIPS FOR STICKING WITH YOUR BEDTIME:
I know, I know, staying up to watch your favorite TV show is SUPER important, but they invented DVR for a reason. Watch it the following day at an earlier time.
Plan on going out to dinner an hour earlier on the weekend. You won’t have to fight the crowds, and you’ll be able to come home and relax before hitting the hay.
2. Create a cave: Cool, quiet, and most importantly DARK!!!
Make an investment in blackout curtains, get rid of your night lights (or put them on a timer), and get the cell phone AWAY your night stand. This will get rid of the temptation to use your phone while you are supposed to be sleeping.
Waking up in the middle of the night?
Tune in next month where I dive deep into how I went from an insomniac waking up for hours at a time during the middle of the night, to sleeping restfully for 8 hours.