With all of our busy lives these days – the long stressful workdays, families to be with, houses to fix up, appointments to meet, errands to run, and all that good TV, many times we find ourselves going to bed really late and waking up earlier than our body would like. Sometimes it gets so bad that we just try and push through the work week and look forward to sleeping in on the weekend to catch up on the lost Z’s. Thank goodness for coffee – our World would be faced with a zombie crisis if it weren’t for caffeine.
It’s unfortunate though. Sleep is important. We’re all mostly aware of that fact. Usually, however, we completely disregard it. Sleep is something that we more or less take for granted. In fact, I used to think of sleep as a waste of time. So many things to do and so little time, why would I want to sleep at all? Well, there are a bunch of reasons.
From a fitness perspective, sleep is important for muscle maintenance and growth. When you’re at the gym, lifting weights, muscle fibers are ripped and damaged (hence the pain you might sometimes feel). In order for muscles to repair themselves, sleep is needed. While sleeping (particular while in deep sleep), our bodies go into repair mode and rebuild the muscle. For bodybuilders, sleep is essential for muscle growth. Repair mode also requires substantial energy and depends on energy stores in our bodies. The energy stores include fat storage. In an indirect way, sleeping actually burns off calories.
Of course, there’s also the fact that the earlier and longer you’re in dream land, the less likely you are to spend any more of your day munching on chocolate bars or nachos. Sure, it’s an obvious point, but I’m sure there have been countless times that you found yourself raiding the fridge at midnight.
Besides the physical benefits of sleep, the mental benefits are huge. More sleep leads to higher levels of alertness and cognitive function. Taking a siesta in the afternoon has been shown to cause higher levels of productivity into the later parts of the working day. Memories are are improved and better solidified during sleep. Your brain files daily events and works subconsciously on problems. I can recall numerous times when working on programming bugs when I would be getting absolutely nowhere to the point that I’d actually be moving backwards. I’d decide to call it quits and come back to it in the morning. I’d wake up, logon to the computer and fire up my code and almost instantly figure it out.
And then there are health reasons too. Your immune system and organs function immensely better when you get more sleep. It’s the reason why bed rest is next only to chicken soup when it comes to fighting a flu or a cold.
So the moral of the story is to get your sleep. If you find that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get enough sleep at night, re prioritize. Work at becoming more organized. Downgrade to basic cable. Set solid bedtimes for yourself. If you have to be awake by 7am, try to get to bed by 11pm. Aim for 8 hours a night. Once you get into the swing of a good sleep schedule, it will become a piece of cake (low cal cake, of course). You will feel way better, more productive, more alert, more energized and your body will thank you.