If you’re getting less than eight hours of sleep a night, you fall asleep instantly, or need an alarm clock to wake up, you can consider yourself sleep-deprived. We live in a twenty-four hour society where sleep is not valued. People cut back on sleep as they think they should be doing something more productive. However, sleep is not a vast wasteland of inactivity. The sleeping brain is highly active at various times during the night, performing numerous physiological, neurological, and biochemical housekeeping tasks. Sleep is essential if you want to perform at the top of your game. Albert Einstein claimed he needed ten hours of sleep to function well.
During our waking hours, the body burns oxygen and food to provide energy. This is known as a catabolic state, where more energy is spent than conserved. This state is dominated by the work of stimulating hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. When we sleep we move into an anabolic state – in which energy conservation, repair and growth take over. By comparison, this state is dominated by the work of melatonin and human growth hormone.
Some Benefits of Getting Enough Sleep:
|Strong Immunity||Healthy Bodyweight|
|High Muscle Mass||Healthy Fertility & Reproduction|
|Good Brain Function||Longevity|
1. Strong Immunity – The immune system increases production of certain proteins during sleep, as the levels of certain agents which fight disease rise during sleep and drop when we are awake. Sleep deprivation reduces levels of white blood cells which form part of the body’s defence system. A cancer killer called TNF – tumour necrosis factor – also pumps through our veins when we are asleep.
2. High Muscle Mass – Muscle growth takes place largely during sleep with the release of melatonin and human growth hormone. Maintaining a healthy muscle mass is important for bone mass and metabolism.
3. Good Brain Function – Sleep is vital to brain development, but is also necessary to for memory and learning. Any amount of sleep deprivation will diminish mental performance.
4. Healthy Bodyweight – Sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin. Leptin is a hormone produced by your white or yellow fat which lets your body know when to stop eating. Leptin controls your appetite and metabolism. In a healthy person as you get fatter more leptin is produced by your fat to reduce your appetite and increase metabolism. If you are sleep deprived you are going to find it difficult to control your appetite, and you will be more likely to crave sweets and sweet foods.
5. Healthy Fertility & Reproduction – It is mostly during sleep that the sex hormone testosterone and the fertility hormones, follicle-stimulating hormone and leuteinising hormone, are secreted. Melatonin also helps control reproductive hormones. For example, it helps determine when a woman starts to menstruate, the frequency and duration of menstrual cycles, and when a woman stops menstruating.
6. Longevity – When we sleep we move into an anabolic state – in which energy conservation, repair and growth take over. All these functions promote longevity.
Ideal sleeping habits
- Sleep in a pitch black room, or wear an eye mask to keep the light out
- Go to bed at 10pm and avoid waking up before 6am
- Sleep for eight to ten hours a night
Sleep in a Pitch Black Room – While light stimulates cortisol production and oestrogen it reduces melatonin reproduction. We need melatonin to perform a whole host of health producing functions in the body. If you cannot eliminate all light from your bedroom whilst asleep, for example street lights, you can invest in an eye mask. We are designed to sleep in the pitch black.
Get to Bed at 10pm and Avoid Waking-up Before 6am – The following functions are carried out at the times stated, in line with your body’s internal body clock:
- Physical repair 10pm to 2am
- Psychological repair 2am to 6am
We do not understand the need for sleep and the consequences of sleep deprivation. We must learn to value sleep as much as we value the importance of proper nutrition and exercise. To become peak performers we must change our habit, replacing sleepiness with alertness.