I recently asked this question to some athletes: “What do you guys think is the #1 most important thing for your health and fitness?”
***Some of the responses: Cardio, mentally focused & driven, nutrition, Consistency and balance.
All of these do play a role in your health and fitness, but there is a very important one that almost all of us over look. It affects everything we do, and directly impacts our training, attitude and most importantly our health. The #1 thing we can do for our health and fitness is SLEEP!
We all know we need to sleep, and hear all the about getting eight hours. We really don’t need that do we? YES we do! Did you know that sleep deprivation causes slower reaction time than drinking? Wow, the guy next to you driving on less than 8 hours sleep is a bigger threat to you than a night on the town with friends. Lack of sleep is serious, and does not get the attention it needs in our sport and our everyday lives.
Lack of sleep has been linked to diabetes, lower metabolism, heart disease, poor immune system functions, and little if no recovery from training. Over training is due to the lack of rest, and SLEEP! Our bodies recover, deal with stress, and rebuild while at rest. Cutting this short, will ultimately lead to injury, sickness, weight gain , and more. The lack of 7-9 hours of sleep has also been directly linked to lower levels hormones, and issues with blood sugar. With the lack of sleep directly linked to the bodies ability to process glucose, you can see were this will impact your nutrition. Ever notice when you are up late and tired, you crave sweets, chips and everything you should not eat. Lack of sleep triggers the body to respond as if you are in crises, it immediately wants to conserve and store energy. Hormones trigger your appetite to increase and your inability to feel full, which causes over eating.
With all your hard work you can really do a number on yourself if you don’t get enough sleep. Think about all the hours training, down the drain, due to injury, poor mental focus, poor reaction time, getting sick, all due to not sleeping. Guess when this is going to happen, just as you are trying to peak in your training.
Sleep is over looked in our sport and in our society as a whole. We consider ourselves health and fitness nuts. So, the most important question for your training and long term health is “how much sleep did you get?”