What Would an Extra 30-90 Minutes of Sleep do for You and Your Fitness?

You know by now how important sleep is to your health and well being. Next to water, sleep is probably the most primal of needs our bodies require. It is the time we are in restoration mode from our crazy adrenal-fatigued days here in Alexandria.

For so many, it is the ONLY time you rest.

But, did you know sleep deprivation could have disastrous implications?

Before we go there, would you get more sleep if you realized it is the prime time your body builds muscle and burns fat?

As we sleep, our bodies require less energy and use the high quality food we have eaten that day for muscle building.

Then, according to Nick Eber of NEIF Fitness in New York City, the right growth hormones are naturally released, improving muscular recovery and regeneration. Ah, that’s what is lacking when you miss your vital 7-9 hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. And after all of that work in the gym, on the trails or field.

The brain recharges overnight. This is important for building muscle because a rested brain is a brain that can focus on rebuilding and recharging.

So, when you sleep, you recover. When you recover, you replace, repair and rebuild. All of these, not just one, are needed to compliment all of that work you put into your fitness.

Now, onto more startling news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 50-70 million adults in the United States have chronic sleep and wakefulness disorders. “Sleep difficulties, some of which are preventable, are associated with chronic diseases, mental disorders, health-risk behaviors, limitations of daily functioning, injury, and mortality,” according to report 60(08); 233-238. The CDC study included 74,571 adult respondents in 12 states. Not a small sample size.

Laboratory experiments on the effects of sleep deprivation have shown that failing to get enough sleep dramatically impairs memory and concentration while increasing levels of stress hormones and disrupting the body’s normal metabolism. William Dement, PhD, says, “this means…that millions of us are living a less than optimal life and performing at a less than optimal level, impaired by an amount of sleep debt that we’re not even aware we carry.”

Your body needs rest to burn fat. Without real restorative rest, fat burning comes to a screeching halt. Yikes!

Furthermore, experiments by psychologist David Dinges, PhD, published by the American Psychological Association, have shown that lack of sleep is dangerous to you and to others around you.

Dinges and colleagues recruited healthy young volunteers to continuously stay in a laboratory for 10-20 days. By randomly assigning the volunteers to receive different amounts and patterns of sleep over time, controlling their access to stimulants such as caffeine, and constantly monitoring their physiological states (to document the amount of sleep they were actually getting), Dinges learned that people who get fewer than eight hours of sleep per night show pronounced cognitive and physiological deficits, including memory impairments, a reduced ability to make decisions and dramatic lapses in attention.

In fact, Dinges demonstrated that two weeks of limited sleep — approximately four hours per night — created brain deficits just as severe as those seen in people who hadn’t slept at all for three nights. Additionally, as sleep deprivation continues over time, attention, memory and other cognitive functions suffer. Consistently failing to get enough sleep is just like consistently spending more money than you make.

Not sleeping enough has been linked to increased risk of car crashes, poor work performance and problems with mood and relationships. Sleep deprivation taxes the immune system, and is associated with a heightened risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and depression. People who chronically fail to get enough sleep are putting their lives, and others, in danger.

There are very few things in life that we can control.  So except for those new parents out there with cute babies (who need their parents for sustenance in those early days and months of their lives), turn off the TV and your electronic devices. The work can wait until tomorrow. If an hour and half earlier to bed seems impossible, start with 30 minutes. Every little bit counts. Give it a try!

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