Sleep is important.  While the recommended amount of sleep every evening is 8 hours, few of us accomplish this goal.  And we can live with that…or at least choose to get by with less sleep.  But what does it cost to miss out on this rest?   It‘s more expensive than you may think.

What is sleep?

Physiologically speaking, sleep is a phase of unconsciousness where the body transitions from focusing on its external surroundings to focusing inwards on itself, both to repair and to learn from what it has encountered that day.  Optimal sleep follows a 90-120 minute cycle through distinct phases of “depths” of sleep, with the “deepest” sleep occurring in the middle of the cycle.  The deeper the sleep, the more you are benefitting. With the recommended 7-9 hours of daily sleep, an individual will experience 4-5 complete sleep cycles.

Why do we need it?

During sleep, your body is done being stimulated for the day and is completely focused on repairing you from your day and preparing you for the next day.  A few of the most important things going on during sleep are…

  • Tissue repair – During deep sleep, your body is awesome at fixing itself.  It’s at this time when growth hormones, testosterone, and other anabolic steroids are released to allow for cellular repair.

  • Motor learning – All learned skills are experienced while awake, but stored when you sleep.  During sleep, your brain transitions patterns into permanent storage, allowing for use later.

  • Memory consolidation – Just like motor learning, your brain moves your daily memories into permanent storage while you sleep, which is great for anyone who wants to get smarter and remember stuff, but especially students, professionals, and athletes. Side note for moms:  wonder why you don’t remember much about your child’s earliest years?  Probably related to how well you were sleeping at the time.

  • Immune System Efficiency – There is no better time for your body to ward off intruders and battle disease and colds than during sleep.  With all other systems shut down, your body puts all effort into internal care, revving up your immune system to max output!

What can help you sleep?

  • Get in bed at the same time every night.  Even if you aren’t tired yet, your body will begin to adapt and train itself to shut down and fall asleep at your designated time.

  • Don’t eat sugar after 5:00 pm (3-4 hours before bed).  Let your body begin calming down for the day.

  • Darken your room.  Use heavy blinds or eye covers and remove as much visual stimulus as possible.

  • Turn off the tech.  TV, radio, phone…turn them off so your brain and body can too.

  • Relaxation techniques – there are many out there which include contracting and relaxing muscles, deep breathing, and/or visualization.  Do a little research and try one out.

With as much as we have going on, it seems impossible to find time to get the recommended amount of sleep.  Please try your best.  You may find that spending more time in bed leads to more productive hours awake.

Information provided is from Dr. Kirk Parsley and his book “Optimize Your Sleep.”  For more information visit www.docparsley.com or Barbell Shrugged Podcast #113.