People do all sorts of things in the pursuit of a better body. In many cases, the things they do can seem downright crazy. What’s most interesting is even though many people will go to great lengths to achieve their fitness goals, they often overlook simple but effective strategies that could definitely help them improve their physique.
One of those strategies is to ensure you get enough sleep every night of the week. Although simply going to bed may not sound all that exciting, it’s an approach that definitely works. When it comes to understanding exactly why humans need a significant amount of sleep on a nightly basis, science still has a long way to go. But in terms of knowing the benefits of getting ample sleep, as well as the side effects of consistently not sleeping enough, there’s a lot of compelling reasons to prioritize getting in bed and drifting off.
What Makes Sleep So Important?
When you consistently get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, it means you’re going to enjoy better overall health, a better sex life, less pain, lower risk of injury, better mood, easier weight control, clearer thinking, sharper memory and stronger immunity.
In addition to its wide range of general health benefits, ample sleep plays a very specific role in the fitness process. Because it’s actually an intensified anabolic state, it helps to boost the growth and rejuvenation of both the immune and musculoskeletal systems. And since hormones like testosterone can be released throughout the night, ample sleep means a faster recovery from workouts.
Not only is sleep important because of the benefits it offers, but it’s just as important as a result of the consequences that go along with not getting enough sleep. The first major downside is that not sleeping increases stress. When your body is stressed, it releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone plays a role in making your body resistant to glucose metabolism, which can impair your ability to recover from exercise.
The increase in this hormone also means your body will be more resistant to insulin. Because insulin plays a crucial role in glucose storage during muscle and protein synthesis, insulin’s otherwise restorative effects on muscles are blocked by too little sleep. This complication is also why ongoing sleep deprivation can even play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.
Tips to Get Enough Sleep
Now that we’ve covered exactly why sleep is so important, you may be wondering what you can do to avoid depriving yourself of sleep. The first is knowing how much sleep you actually need. While there’s no exact method for determining the perfect number, keep in mind that most people underestimate how much they need. So it may be worthwhile to use an app that can help you get in the right range of the amount that’s best for your specific needs.
The next is to create a consistent schedule for yourself. Although this can be a challenge, it’s at the core of being a healthy sleeper. Prior to actually turning out the lights, go through a little bedtime ritual so your body can start relaxing and getting ready for sleep. Once you get in a consistent routine, you’ll want to pay attention to any specific foods or beverages that interfere with your ability to fall asleep in a timely manner.
Another option is to try one or more supplements. L-tryptophan, kava kava, valerian root, melatonin and L-theanine are all supplements that have links to improved sleep. As with any supplements, just be sure to research any you’re considering. And if you have any questions or concerns about the effects of a specific supplement, don’t hesitate to ask a medical professional for guidance.
Finally, while naps may seem like a necessity when you’re not sleeping enough, they can actually get in the way of nighttime sleeping. So if you still feel like naps are necessary, keep them under a half hour and no later than mid-afternoon.
If you want to enjoy everything from a younger appearance to better workout results, be sure that the hard work you put into eating right, proper supplementation and exercising is complemented by enough sleep on a nightly basis.
Paul Stephens is a high school biology teacher. When he’s not in the classroom, he enjoys coaching his school’s football team, lifting weights and cooking healthy meals that actually taste good.