You’ve heard it time and time again - your body needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Counting sheep and drifting off has never been more important than it is today. So many people sacrifice sleep for their work, relationships, and family. If you have found yourself pushing back your bedtime to fit more chores in at night - this article is for you!
What’s getting in the way?
We are in an age where the “world never sleeps”. Constantly we are bombarded with emails, Facebook notifications, and Instagram scrolling. If you ever walk through Times Square at 12 at night - you’ll know exactly what it means when they say “New York never sleeps”.
We’ve all heard the expression “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. I’ve always loved this quote because it seemed to express the drive and push to spend more time awake and doing work or “grinding”. When I was younger - I believed that this is what it took for you to be successful. Getting 4-5 hours of sleep and waking up to continue your grind is looked at as something that successful people do - they spend less time just “laying around” and more time doing. This is very much part of our American culture.
For those with kids - the struggle to complete all chores, take care of kids, and have some time for yourself is all packed into the few hours after work. I’ve heard it time and time again - “my schedule is crazy and I can’t get into bed before 12”. While I can sympathize with all you parents out there, you need to recognize what sleep can do for you and why you need to make it a priority.
What’s the big deal about sleep anyway?
We all know we “should” get more sleep every night but do you know exactly why that is?
Sleep is a foundation function of the human body and mind that no other activity can replicate. There's a good reason for the sentiment “Sleep it off!” is so popular when faced with stressful situations. Let’s go over some of the processes that take place when catching those Z’s!
There are 3 main stages of sleep - light sleep, deep sleep, and REM (Rapid eye movement) sleep. While sleeping your body will go through these cycles. If you have a fitbit or a sleep tracker you will often notice that these 3 stages are reflected in your daily report. Let’s go over the 3 main stages and what happens during them to get a more clear picture on why it’s important!
Light sleep takes place during the transition from awake time into sleep time. With light sleep your body can be impacted by changes in temperature, touch, and sound. If you’ve ever woken up and thought “Did I fall asleep?” you must certainly be in the light sleep stage.
Light sleep is important because it controls the process of transferring short term memory, into long term memory. This is ideal for learning; memories and facts are sent to storage compartments in your brain so that you can readily use that information again! (Think power naps after studying or learning something new!)
When you wake up after a night of sleep and don’t feel refreshed, you probably spent more time in the light sleep stage. This stage is important as a transition stage to help lead you into deep and REM sleep.
Deep sleep is all about that refreshed feeling upon waking up. During deep sleep your body slows everything down. Your brain waves slow, your breathing slows and it becomes harder for you to wake up during this time. Deep sleep helps to recover the body in more ways than one!
Increases blood flow to muscles
Promotes growth and repairs tissues
Strengthens the immune system
Now I don’t know about you but these benefits sound pretty amazing! One key point here I like to point out is the fact that during deep sleep your muscles repair and increase blood flow. If you are looking to get stronger, look no further than a good night of sleep!
REM sleep is the most talked about stage of sleep. This is the stage that dreams occur and our bodies become lit up with activity. During REM sleep your body’s heart rate will increase, your brain is just as active as awake time, and breathing becomes fast and irregular.
During this stage your body is “paralyzed”; a hormone (GABA) is sent from the brainstem to nullify and reduce any chance of moving the body. (If any of you have ever felt the weird occurrence of being “awake” but not being able to move a muscle. Often called sleep paralysis).
Also I want you to think about REM sleep as the time when your brain is cleaned out by your own personal janitor! Your body will clean out the information it no longer needs. Often times if you’ve had a problem you were trying to solve, after REM sleep your mind will be more clear and you will be able to solve the problem with more ease.
What happens when I don’t get enough sleep?
Let this information give you the wake up call you need! (pun intended) Lack of sleep can cause a host of issues. I want to highlight just a few key ones that I think you will want to hear.
Reason 1: Lack of sleep can make you fat! 55% of adults are more likely to become obese from lack of quality sleep. This points to the fact that your body is more tired after poor sleep and therefore you will be less motivated to exercise and make sound decisions when it comes to your nutrition!
Reason 2: You eat more calories sleep deprived. During sleep hormones are regulated. The 2 big ones here are Gherlin and leptin. Gherlin promotes hunger while leptin suppresses hunger. In those individuals with less sleep - ghrelin reigns supreme and causes people to be more hungry and therefore eat more food.
Reason 3: You are less productive. As you would expect and probably have felt in the past - sleep helps to clear out the mess of things in your brain that only lead to clutter and slow your cognition. Some studies have shown that lack of sleep can be equated to being intoxicated with alcohol! Intoxication on a Saturday night is fine with friends but probably not ideal when you are working on a Tuesday morning!
Reason 4: Immune function drops. If you are the type of person who gets a lot of colds - I would recommend you start sleeping more. The body recovers itself during sleep and studies have shown that people who get 7 hours of sleep and under are 3 times more likely to develop a cold.
Reason 5: Inflammation increases. Keeping with this trend - the body will have a harder time filtering out and repairing sites that have increased inflammation. This can lead to chronic injuries that never seem to get better! Important for those training hard with lingering orthopedic issues.
I think you get the point - sleep is basically a magic cure!
So how can I get more sleep?
If you find yourself fighting to get to sleep - try some of these techniques to help aid your sleep process. It’s all a matter of practice, repetition and consistency. If you’ve been keeping up with our blog posts - we at Forever Fit believe that proper planning and sticking to that plan can work wonders and transform your life! So with that - try at least 1 or 2 of these strategies out next time you feel you aren’t getting enough sleep.
Take 20-30 minutes prior to sleep time to decompress. You can take up reading a book, meditating or simply having a nice relaxing cup of tea. The key here is to bring yourself down from the busy day.
Avoid artificial light when sleeping. In our modern world we have the ability to always have “the sun” shining on us. Monitor screens, phone screens, TV screens...all of these produce light and makes it harder for our bodies to realize that sleep is approaching.
Stick to a sleep schedule. Having a set bedtime will help keep you focused and motivated to get into bed. Having a consistent time helps regulate the body's internal clock allowing for a deeper and more full night of sleep.
Exercise everyday! This is my favorite one - exercise doesn’t always need to be a hard workout in the gym but realize that moving the body will aid you in falling asleep much easier. (We all know that exhausted feeling after a hard workout!)
Keep work and the phone outside of the bedroom. Keep those distractions physically in another room - your bed and bedroom should be a place of reprieve and relaxation!
I hope that this information will help you work on getting better sleep. The science is strong with this - sleep is just as important as your exercise and nutrition. Sleep is by far a waste of time - quality sleep can extend your life rather than “waste” life.
If you find yourself in a rut when it comes to weight loss and exercise - you might not be getting enough sleep!
I suggest that you work on one small step everyday for 2 weeks. For example if you find that you are doing chores until 11 PM every night - try to finish your chores by 10:30 PM allowing yourself to get into bed 30 minutes earlier. Over time you will find that you feel more productive and energized while also getting more sleep!
Sleep is not for the weak! It is what makes you strong and ready to take on the day with a clear head, strong muscles, and rested heart.
If you have any questions about sleep please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org