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Fitness, Life

The Importance of Sleep

With this week being the first week of Daylight Saving Time, I thought it might be a good time to refresh everyone’s memory about an important subject–sleep. It’s one of the most important things you can do to get and stay healthy. It’s a well-known fact that most of us don’t get enough sleep. And if you think you can function on less sleep, you’re probably wrong. Only a very small population of people can get by on less; it’s not the norm. So, how much sleep do you need?

Experts agree most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, but it’s not just a matter of going to bed at 9 p.m. and getting up at 5 a.m. That sleep in between needs to be quality sleep. Believe it or not, what you do all day can impact how well you sleep at night. For example, if you don’t eat enough during the day, you make awaken at night due to hunger. If you drink too much before bed, you might wake up to go to the bathroom. What’s worse, if you drink caffeine too much or too late in the day, that also can make a huge difference in how well you sleep.

Most of us have a morning routine. We probably get up, brush our teeth or shower, and get ready for our day. But, how many of us have a nighttime routine? It’s just as important. Making sure you wind down, stop eating a couple hours before bed (and maybe cutting back on fluids, too), turn down the lights, use blue light blocking glasses, or stop watching screens can make a huge difference in how well you can fall and stay asleep. Beware of the “night cap” effect, though. While a glass of wine might help make you drowsy initially, it likely will disrupt your sleep as the night goes on. Better not to have it at all.

By now you’re probably thinking that getting good sleep is boring and not at all in line with your lifestyle. And herein lies the problem. Americans don’t place an emphasis on sleep and it shows. The vast majority of the population is overweight, a by-product of not getting enough sleep. We’re chronically tired and when we are sleepy our bodies create more cortisol, the stress hormone. Basically, we are adding more stress to our lives, which leads to other unhealthy behaviors. And for those of you who are interested in building muscle and who exercise regularly, lack of quality sleep can hinder your gains.

If you still need a reason why sleep is so important think about what happens when you know you haven’t slept well. What’s your mood like? How productive are you? If you get a whole week of poor sleep, are you more susceptible to illness? How’s your diet when you’re overtired? The answers should point you in the right direction – on your back, in your bed, with your eyes closed. Sleeping.

For more tips on how to get better sleep, listen to the MindPump podcast, “How Sleep Helps Your Muscles Recover and Grow.” It’s full of helpful advice and reasons why sleep is underrated and oh so important.

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