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  • Writer's pictureAngela Hancock

How much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Skimping on sleep isn’t helping you excel in life or at work and it will really hamper your progress in the gym.

Why is sleep important?

Sleep is how your body replenishes itself every day and recharges its batteries to prepare for the next day. A full night’s sleep is vital for physical health. Your body uses your sleeping hours to repair the muscle fibers you break down during strength training.

Sleep is also involved in improving the strength of your heart and blood vessels.

Sleep also helps your brain form new pathways that aid in recalling and retaining information. Losing even one to two hours of sleep over a couple of nights can affect your ability to function at its optimal level.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, consistent sleep deprivation increases your risk of developing heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity because it helps your body regulate the production of two important hormones in your body, leptin and ghrelin.

Ghrelin stimulates your appetite, while leptin is produced by fat cells and suppresses hunger. A lack of sleep lowers your body’s leptin and increases ghrelin levels, which increases your appetite while getting enough sleep is like a natural appetite suppressant.

Sleep also helps your body regulate the production of cortisol. Cortisol stimulates the breakdown of protein into glucose. If you have too much cortisol, your body breaks more protein down into glucose. In turn, too much glucose in the body turns into fat. And if that wasn’t enough, too much cortisol makes it difficult for your body to build muscle mass.

Lastly, the lack of sleep lowers your body’s ability to perform cognitively. Your brain doesn’t have enough time to repair, so you can’t remember important things – like where you left your wallet or keys! Sleep obviously also affects our moods.

Typically, most people need anywhere from seven to nine hours a night to feel rested and ready for the day ahead. One way to find out the right number of hours for you is to take some time, like on a weekend, when you don’t have any commitments.

Try to stay away from coffee, wine, and any other stimulants and let your body get tired naturally. (Note: This includes your cellphone! The artificial light interrupts your body’s ability to get sleepy! Try to avoid cell phone use for at least one hour before bed). Then, sleep until your body naturally wakes you up. That’ll typically give you a good idea of how many hours you need.

Prioritize sleep!

Your body will thank you.

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