Friday, February 10, 2012


As my schedule begins to burst at the seams, I've been researching the importance of sleep. I've noticed that we tend to associate sleep with laziness or speak about our sleep (when we actually get it!) apologetically...

"I can't believe I slept in!"
"I wasted the whole morning in bed!"
"I went to bed so early. I am so lame!"

Or, we wear our lack of sleep like a badge of honor...

"I'm working so hard. I didn't even sleep last night!" (read: No matter how hard YOU work, I work harder!)
"I was up until 2 a.m. working on my presentation." (read: My sacrifice knows no boundaries!)
"I was out until 3 a.m. last night" (read: I'm even a more committed partier than you!)

We seem to view sleeping as a weakness so it's no big surprise that sleep is the first thing sacrificed when life gets crazy.

Numerous clinical studies proven that adults need between 7.5 -9 hours of sleep each night. Also good to note: We sleep in 90 minute internals. News to me! Interrupting one of those cycles cuts down on our deep sleep. The Deep Sleep Stage is like a construction site in our bodies. Repair, reorganize, produce. We are truly a mess without enough deep sleep.

Just take a second to add up your own hours of sleep in the past three nights. I hope your calculations were better than mine!

If you're an early morning exerciser, the math really starts to work against you. I need to be asleep by 9:00 to get 7.5 hours. ASLEEP! Not whacking away on the iPad, talking on the phone, or propping one eye open to see who gets booted off The Biggest Loser Ranch.  Asleep.  Yeah, right.

Increased alertness, concentration and reduced eye baggage are obvious benefits of sleep but I have to be motivated by other factors... It's all about fitness and performance!  Here are the top 3 health reasons I've tacked to my bedside lampshade to remind me to turn off the light and sleeeeeep....

1.  Sleeping less than 7 hours per night decreases Leptin levels in the body.  Leptin is the protein hormone produced in your fat cells that tells your brain that you're full and satisfied. 

2.  Sleeping less than 7 hours per night increases Ghrelin levels in the body.  You guessed it! Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the intestinal tract that drives hunger sensations.

Welcome to Vicious Cycle City!
Sleep too little. Feel hunger falsely through Ghrelin.  Leptin is nowhere to be found so you never feel satisfied. In go the kettle chips and the chocolate chips!  " Hey... how come I'm still hungry?"   Round and round we go...

3. During sleep you can strengthen memories or "practice" skills learned while you were awake (it’s a process called consolidation). I'm banking on a good night's sleep to help with my swim stroke. I've even started to consciously think about swimming just before falling asleep. (Yes, I am a freak)

The other game changer has been my Sleep Diary. Actually, it's a cheap notepad next to the bed. In the morning I jot down my best guess at what time I fell asleep and log the time I woke up. In the evening I look over the day and rate my energy level, mood, and any swings in hunger levels. (I've got my eye on you Mr. Leptin!) Seeing the "deficits" - anything under 7.5 hours - has motivated me to make up those deficits by Sunday of each week.

By paying just an iota of attention to my sleep, I have felt more rested and happy. Placebo effect? Power of suggestion? Maybe. But who cares?

I'm off to make some "PROUD SLEEPER" bumper stickers...

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