Sleep: Staple or Luxury?

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By Cord Reisdorf

For those of us working hard to stay fit, eat well and live a healthy lifestyle, sleep – along with exercise and proper nutrition – is a critical component of maintaining that lifestyle.

Unfortunately, due to our invariably hectic schedules, getting adequate sleep often ranks lowest on our list of priorities. In fact, many of us underestimate the value of sleep and subscribe to the myth to think you can “train” your body to function on less sleep. Not so. For the average person, the minimum daily requirement to simply function normally is 7-9 hours of sleep. Based on this figure, an estimated one-third of North Americans are sleep deprived.

Ironically, it is that lack of sleep that renders busy people less effective, as even a modest loss eventually creates a serious sleep debt when sustained over several nights.

“Sleep… who needs it!”

When you do not get sufficient sleep on a regular basis, your body attempts to both preserve & replenish its stores of energy until adequate sleep has been achieved. The result? A higher rate of weight gain, reduced motivation to exercise, and a reduction in the benefits that accrue from exercising. Yikes.

Research shows that inadequate sleep can result in:

* Higher stress & lower motivation levels
* Slower reflexes & higher incidence of accidents
* Poorer coping skills & reduced productivity

Sleep deprivation is serious: not only does it affect your health, it significantly impairs your overall quality of life.

How does it work?

During the valuable hours of sleep, your body goes to work: sleep allows your brain to consolidate the day’s learning into memory & improves your ability to learn repetitive skills, and cells are repaired & replenished allowing you to recharge for the next day.

So how do you get a “good night’s sleep”?

For most of us it is simply a matter of making sleep a priority. Set a regular scheduled time to go to sleep. Make sure you calculate a minimum of 7-9 hours between the time you go to sleep and the time you wake up. And if you find yourself unable to drift off to sleep right away, give yourself an allowance of an hour or so of reading and “wind-down” time in addition to your 7-9 hours of sleep.*

The Bottom Line:

Make sleep your priority and you’ll be able to reach your peak faster and more efficiently. And most importantly, you will experience a significant improvement in your quality of life.

* Note: If you find that you are frequently unable to fall asleep, awaken several times in the night or feel tired even after sleeping for 7-9 hours, you should consult your physician or see a sleep specialist

Cord Reisdorf is the principle of Peak Fitness Management

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