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Sleep. The best exercise?

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What did you say?  You heard me right.  Getting a proper nights sleep could be the best exercise that you can have.  It’s funny, but that’s really hard for me to say.  The simple reason is, I HATE TO SLEEP!  If I could stay up 24 hours a day 7 days a week and still function, I would.  I’ve always been one to rise early in the morning and go to bed late.  However, there is a long list of information, doctors recommendations, studies, reports, you name it, that suggests getting enough sleep is key to any healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is essential for a person’s health and well being, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. Rest is one of the most important principles of exercise and often the most overlooked. Bodybuilders often look to change the amount of weight they lift or number of reps they perform during their workouts. What many of them don’t realize is that muscle growth they’re looking for is actually occurring during this crucial recovery process following their workout.  During this period of rest, your body is doing exactly what you’ve been begging it to do ever since you lifted that first dumbbell: build muscle. But if you’re one of the millions of Americans who don’t get enough sleep, you need to take a good look at just how much your sleeping habits can affect your body’s own muscle-building potential.

William C. Dement, MD, PhD, the Dean of Sleep Disorders Research and Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, states: “Americans have gotten the message that good nutrition and plenty of exercise are important for health, but we have not paid enough attention to the third pillar of good health, which is adequate sleep.”   In his book, “Bring It” Tony Horton suggests changing the name of “sleeping” to “healing”


Why you need proper amount of sleep:

  • It restores the body’s energy.
  • It gives the body a chance to repair itself and regenerate.
  • It helps the brain organize and store memories.
  • It may recharge the brain.  

Lack of Sleep and the Consequences

Since sleep is responsible for the body’s recovery, the lack of sleep can be deleterious upon an individual’s health. The consequences of sleep deprivation can affect the following areas:

  • Reduced performance and lack of concentration causing impaired learning and lack of motivation for workouts.
  • Depression. Depression may cause sleep loss and vice-versa.
  • Decreased immune system function
  • Increased pain
  • Decreased ability to metabolize glucose and an increased risk of diabetes.
  • Less than five hours of sleep per night increases the risk of high blood pressure or worsening blood pressure. In a study at the University of Chicago, researchers found that for every hour sleep was reduced, the risk of high blood pressure increased by 37%.
  • Release of stress hormones and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • An increased risk of breast and colon cancer. Melatonin fights abnormal cell growth, especially in breast cancer and colon cancer. Since melatonin is released at night, less sleep means less melatonin. Thus, a reduced cancer-fighting ability.
  • Increased inflummation.  Chronic inflammation can cause a variety of diseases and conditions.
  • During a 5-year study, researchers found lack of sleep related to increased abdominal fat in individuals younger than 40 years of age. While six to seven hours were considered normal, the extremes were defined as five hours or less and eight hours or more. Individuals with less sleep had a higher body mass index (BMI). Excess abdominal fat is a known risk for many diseases.

Your muscles grow the most when you sleep, so if you only sleep 5 or 6 hours a night, your muscles aren’t going to recover and certainly won’t grow.  Shoot for at least 7 hours of sleep per night.  Like I said earlier, thats hard for me, I REALLY have to work at getting 7 hours of sleep a night.  The good news is, I’m improving my sleep habits.  For me my active rest days, I call them active rest because I usely only do ab workouts those days, are Thursday and Sunday.  These are the days that I try “catch up” and get the 7 or more hours of sleep, especially if I’m lacking sleep during the week.  Busy job, young kids, thats usually what happens.


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