With all of the diversions in Mount Pleasant and Charleston (not to mention on TV, your computer and your phone), it’s easy to put sleep LAST on your to-do-list.  But it turns out that sleep can be one of the most important (if not THE most important) thing that you can do for your wellness. Read on to see why getting good sleep can improve not only your health, but your fitness levels too.

Getting Good Sleep Leads to a Longer Lifespan

According to Health Magazine, “Too much or too little sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan…In a 2010 study of women ages 50 to 79, more deaths occurred in women who got less than five hours…of sleep per night. Sleep also affects quality of life.”  Harvard Medical School adds, “Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.”

Getting Good Sleep Helps Whittle your Waistline

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.  Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.”

Shape Magazine puts it this way: “Turns out, sleep deprivation is a little like being drunk. You just don’t have the mental clarity to make good complex decisions, specifically with regards to the foods you eat—or foods you want to avoid. This isn’t helped by the fact that when you’re overtired, you also have increased activity in the amygdala, the reward region of your brain. This is why sleep deprivation destroys all diets; think of the amygdala as mind control—it makes you crave high-calorie foods. Normally you might be able to fight off this desire, but because your insular cortex (another portion of your brain) is weakened due to sleep deprivation, you have trouble fighting the urge and are more likely to indulge in all the wrong foods.”

Getting Good Sleep Helps Your Workouts

According to Men’s Fitness, in their article titled The Fit Five: Sleep Your Way to More Muscle, “Hitting the sack is the real secret to muscular size, strength, and efficient recovery. In fact, according to Nick Ebner, N.A.S.M.-C.P.T., P.I.C.P., ‘It just might be the most important element of your training.’” The article continues to explain, “As we sleep, energy consumption is lowered, allowing us to use the high-quality food we eat during the day to more efficiently build muscle. Growth hormone is naturally released, improving muscular recovery and regeneration. Also, as we sleep the brain recharges. This is important for building muscle because a rested brain is a motivated and focused brain. In simple terms, when you sleep, you recover, and when you recover you replace, repair, and rebuild—all of which are needed for optimal progress.”

LiveStrong emphasizes that if you’re sick or injured, sleep and recovery is even more important: “Your muscles require additional sleep and recovery time after illness, injury and surgery. This means if you are rehabbing an injury or are in postoperative physical therapy, you should consider that your body needs an extra amount of sleep to heal. In addition, muscular recovery is required after intense exercise, particularly strength and endurance training, in which the muscles have been torn down to some degree.”

What Qualifies as “Getting Good Sleep”?

According to Sleep.org, sleeping is even MORE important for those who are physically active.  “Just as athletes need more calories to fuel their bodies for their sport, they also need more shut-eye: Lots of physical activity puts more demand on muscles and tissues, and the body repairs itself during slumber. Sleep not only helps your body recover, it’s also a surefire performance booster. How much sleep you need exactly depends on your genes and how much physical activity you channel into your sport (most adults need seven to nine hours a night and athletes might improve their performance with up to 10 hours a night). But no matter how serious you are about your sport, sleep will boost your athletic performance in several ways.”

Having Trouble Getting Good Sleep?

Check out these tips from the Mayo Clinic by clicking HERE.