How much sleep do you get every night?
The CDC recommends at least 7 hours of sleep every night and at least 1/3 of adults don’t get enough. Have you ever thought about how much sleep you need if you’re actively training for a race or competition or if you’re trying to lose weight? To recover properly from working out, our bodies need at least 8 hours of sleep, especially if you are working out daily! While we sleep, our bodies release growth hormone, which helps with tissue repair and growth; it also helps regulate ghrelin and leptin, both of which help with appetite control. Sleep deprivation is also associated with increased adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) because more stress is being put on the body. All the extra stress on the body can increase the amount of cortisol you produce, which can increase fat retention. Sleep deprivation is also linked with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
What can I do to?
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking: “So you just told me all these terrible things not getting enough sleep can lead to, but how do I get more sleep when there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done???” One thing I like to do every evening is reserve 30-45 mins as my “sleep prep time”. During this time, I turn off all screens, do some stretching and meditation, and make sure my bedroom is completely dark. I also have a fan that has a “white noise” setting to drown out any street noise. If a white noise machine or fan isn’t enough to help you quiet your mind or you have a partner that snores or goes to bed after you, consider some earplugs. Another thing that helps me get a better night sleep is the right pillow. When lying on your back, your neck should be supported, and the back of your head should be 1-2 inches off the bed. If you’re a side sleeper, having enough support on your head so your spine is neutral (aka not tilted to either side) is ideal. And I know naps are great when you have the chance to get one, but it could actually be the reason you’re not sleeping as well through the night. Daily naps can cause you to stay up later because your body got some of its rest during the day and when you don’t get enough sleep at night, it can cause you to want to nap the next day, perpetuating the cycle of sleep deprivation. “And what about melatonin? I heard it’s great for sleep!” Well, occasionally taking melatonin if you can’t fall asleep despite all your efforts is a good thing and can get you back into a natural sleep schedule. BUT taking melatonin daily can be detrimental because your body will stop producing enough melatonin naturally, causing you to become reliant on the melatonin supplements (again, not a good thing).
Developing a good sleep schedule can take 2-3 weeks, but in the end, it will be worth it for your health. Your family, coworkers, and friends might notice a change in your mood…and you could find yourself becoming less reliant on caffeine. It could also get you past that weight loss plateau, take some time off of your running/cycling pace, or even increase that one rep max you’ve been trying to increase for months. What do you have to lose by getting enough sleep?