4 Surprising Benefits Of Sleep That Will Improve Your Life

The Benefits of Sleep – Quick Summary

  • Chronic sleep deprivation (5-6 hours of sleep per night) causes cumulative deterioration of memory, decreases in mood, general function, and sleepiness.
  • Lack of sleep can hinder muscle recovery AND can cause you to lose weight – but primarily from muscle mass.
  • Sleep deprivation interrupts critical metabolic functions including the production of HGH (human growth hormone).
  • Studies show that increased sleep (9-10 hours per night) can improve athletic performance and endurance across multiple sports.
  • Chronic lack of sleep has been associated with obesity and cardiovascular disease.

benefits of sleep

The Surprising Benefits of Sleep

Sleep is an incredibly powerful and underrated supplement for the human body.

Yes, I said supplement. Many sports teams are realizing the benefits of sleep and using sleep supplementation strategies to improve their players performance (more on that in a bit).

Sleep is better than any pill, recovery drink, or fitness strategy. In fact without proper sleep, you may be undoing all your hard work in the gym (more on that later too).

I have experienced three major life changing boosts to my energy level, fitness results, and overall wellness. Proper sleep is one of them.

The other two are the ketogenic diet and a loose, lazy, fun, effective workout blueprint.

The Center For Disease Control reports that 33% of Americans are sleep deprived 1)https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html, while the National Sleep Foundation reports that 45% of Americans admitted that insufficient sleep affected their lives within the past seven days. 2)https://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/lack-sleep-affecting-americans-finds-the-national-sleep-foundation

Here’s the good news.

You are in total control of the quantity and quality of your sleep.

More specifically, you’re in control of:

  1. When you go to bed.
  2. When to stop signaling your body to stay awake by staring at your phone.
  3. How deeply you allow your body to rest during the night.
  4. Allowing your body to go into night mode and begin releasing melatonin, a precursor chemical for a deep sleep.

Empirical evidence and multiple sources explain that people love to stay up late staring at their phones.  3)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4089837/ 4)https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2015/10/among-teens-sleep-deprivation-an-epidemic.html 5)https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201701/late-night-smartphone-use-often-fuels-daytime-somnambulism 6)https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/06/17/cell-phone-use-before-bedtime-might-impact-sleep-and-daytime-tiredness/

Your phone, computer, tablet, and poor choice to click another link or send another text is causing all kinds of problems for your body.

The keyword in that last sentence? Choice.

Let me explain why you should begin choosing to get quality sleep right away.

 

Benefits of Sleep: Proper Executive Function

You know what it’s like when you wake up and you feel as though you didn’t sleep at all?

It’s not that you’re tired. It’s not that you’re getting older. It’s that you haven’t realized the true benefits of sleep yet.

It’s that you’re sleep deprived – only getting 5-6 hours of sleep per night

In addition, the length of your sleep is far less important than the quality of your sleep. Nine hours of rest means little when you aren’t allowing your body to reach a deep state of rest.

Unfortunately, the effects of sleep deprivation are incremental and take more than two solid nights of recovery to become properly rested again.

One sleep study shows multiple side effects of sleep restriction, including declined cognitive performance, poor mood, and general function.

“During the manipulation period, the SR [sleep restricted] group demonstrated incremental deterioration in sustained attention, working memory and executive function, increase in subjective sleepiness, and decrease in positive mood. Subjective sleepiness and sustained attention did not return to baseline levels even after 2 recovery nights.” 7)https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/39/3/687/2454041

 

Another study shows nearly identical results and states that memory and performance declines are the cause of inadequate neural activation in the brain.

The study concludes by showing that a proper amount of sleep is the only solution.

“In short, there is no substitute for adequate sleep and a full 7–9 h of sleep must be obtained each night to maintain optimal working memory performance.” 8)http://psychology.psy.msu.edu/SleepLab/Files/Frenda-Fenn-2016.pdf

 

In other words, if you want to be awake, intelligent, productive, successful, and functional…the simple solution is to make time for an adequate amount of sleep – even at the expensive of “getting more done.”

I understand that you have lots to accomplish (I’m excluding everyone who just stares at their electronics long into the night.)

I’ve been there. I promise that if you make time to rest, you will accomplish far more when you’re fully awake and motivated to dominate anything you encounter.

Not only will you get more done, but the quality of your work will radically improve – doubling or tripling your return on time invested.

I truly believe that the secret to life is to have as much energy as possible all the time.

More energy means you never have to make yourself get up off the couch when you’re tired. You just leap from the couch because you want to go do something interesting or fun.

More energy means more fun, less weariness, more productivity, and more motivation to build something great like this website.

 

Benefits of Sleep: Muscle Recovery

If you’re into fitness I imagine you go to the gym a few times per week.

(I’m not really sure why, since you only need to go once per week for maximum gains.)

It’s a common misconception that increases to muscle size and strength happen at the gym.

In reality, strengths gains happen while you rest – days after you leave the gym.

Fitness expert Doug McGuff, MD says in his book, Body By Science, that full recovery from an intense workout can take somewhere between five days (if you’re lucky) to six weeks. 9)McGuff, Little. Body By Science. McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.

But make no mistake about it. Recovery doesn’t just happen during the day – most of it actually occurs while you’re sleeping.

W&M University’s comprehensive athletic sleep manual expands on the benefits of sleep and the necessity of sleep for effective muscle recovery.

“The majority of muscle repair and growth occurs during sleep when hormones are released. Without adequate sleep, muscle gain is greatly diminished.” 10)https://www.wm.edu/offices/sportsmedicine/_documents/sleep-manual

 

The manual goes on to state that much of your muscular chemistry and synthesis occurs while you’re sleeping.

“And that during the early stages of sleep there is a significant release of human growth hormone (HGH) – one of the “most critical” factors in muscle growth.” 11)https://www.wm.edu/offices/sportsmedicine/_documents/sleep-manual

HGH plays a big part in repairing damaged cells, metabolism, and body composition.

It also plays a key role in muscle growth and exercise performance. (I don’t recommend supplementing HGH. There are many ways to naturally increase the production of HGH.) 12)https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-ways-to-increase-hgh

In addition to HGH, adequate sleep is also linked to levels of other growth hormones like testosterone and IGF-1 13)https://www.strongerbyscience.com/poor-recovery-and-increased-muscle-breakdown-insufficient-sleep-part-2/, which is produced by the liver and helps promote bone and tissue growth. 14)https://labtestsonline.org/tests/insulin-growth-factor-1-igf-1

Not only does proper sleep play a vital role in full, efficient muscle recovery, it can also prevent the loss of muscle you worked hard to gain.

This study shows how inadequate sleep can hurt the muscular and weight loss effort of dieters.

“Although sleep duration was found not to affect the total amount of weight loss – they all lost an average of nearly 7 pounds – the dieters lost mainly muscle rather than fat during their sleep-deprived two-week session… 15)https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/203436.php

 

The study concludes by stating that “Sleep curtailment decreased the proportion of weight lost as fat by 55%…” 16)http://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/746184/insufficient-sleep-undermines-dietary-efforts-reduce-adiposity?volume=153&issue=7&page=435

Yikes.

Sleep for muscle recovery. Sleep for muscle retainment.

 

Benefits of Sleep: Performance

Adequate sleep doesn’t just affect muscles at rest, it also has a profound effect on your performance capability.

The benefits of sleep became more apparent when a study of tennis athletes showed that extended sleep improved performance in multiple skills, including:

  1. Improved sprinting times (from 19.12 seconds to 17.56 seconds).
  2. Higher hitting accuracy including valid serves (from 12.6 serves to 15.61 serves).
  3. Better hitting depth (from 10.85 hits to 15.45 hits). 17)https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090608071939.htm

These results are a huge win in understanding more about the benefits of sleep and how sleep effects human performance.

Another study showed equally impressive results in basketball, as many skills and percentages were improved following a sleep extension protocol.

“Extended sleep beyond one’s habitual nightly sleep likely contributes to improved athletic performance, reaction time, daytime sleepiness, and mood. Improvements in shooting percentage, sprint times, reaction time, mood, fatigue, and vigor were all observed with increased total sleep time.”

 

The researchers go on to explain, in detail, exactly how the basketball players improved their performance, including:

  1. Faster sprint times (16.2 seconds to 15.5 seconds).
  2. Improved free throw accuracy (9% improvement).
  3. Higher 3-point accuracy (9.2% improvement).
  4. Mean reaction times decreased.
  5. Epworth Sleepiness Scale scores decreased.
  6. POMS scores improved.
  7. Decreased fatigue subscales.
  8. Improved overall ratings of physical and mental well-being of players during practices and games. 18)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119836/

While a lot of athletes focus on time spent in the gym and perfecting their craft, additional performance can be gained by increasing sleep.

Does it get any more simple than that?

I also want to point out that adequate sleep isn’t just for athletic performance.

Getting the proper type and amount of rest will turn you into a wizard at your job and can skyrocket you to the next level in your company.

In two and a half years I more than doubled my salary at work.

I attribute most of that to having high levels of energy and being able to kick ass at any moment for as long as I needed.

 

Benefits of Sleep: Fight Off Obesity

Let’s be totally clear about how this works. An overweight or obese person will never cure their problems by just increasing sleep.

I say this all the time…there’s no quick fix to counteract years of poor choices. A proper diet is 80% of the battle, and nothing can change that.

But sleep does seem to play a role in the obesity equation.

One study makes it very clear that sleep deprivation and obesity are linked.

“Driven by the demands and opportunities of modern life, many people sleep less than 6 h/night, and such short sleep has been associated with obesity and related metabolic morbidity.”

 

The study goes on to conclude with some very specific advice.

“Nevertheless, it now seems prudent to recommend that overweight and obese individuals attempting to reduce their caloric intake and maintain increased physical activity should obtain adequate sleep and, if needed, seek effective treatment for any coexisting sleep disorders.” 19)https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/97/6/1792/2536459

 

(I read “coexisting sleep disorders” as stop playing with your phone in bed! You’re only creating chronic sleep issues for yourself.)

A major cause of obesity and other chronic issues is developing a resistance to the hormone insulin.

Even a single night of partial sleep deprivation causes insulin resistance in metabolic systems – even in healthy people. 20)https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/95/6/2963/2598810

Combined with the horrendous Standard American Diet, this causes high glucose levels, chronically high levels of insulin, and eventually a resistance to insulin.

Lack of sleep is partially to blame for the vicious cycle of sugar, insulin, more sugar, more insulin, and eventually larger issues like diabetes and other long term problems.

The bottom line is that sleep will compliment a healthy, low carbohydrate diet and keep your body sensitive to necessary insulin responses.

 

Benefits of Sleep: Summary

Sleep is a very potent health and recovery strategy that can produce higher energy levels and overall wellness.

Remember these key points as you wind down this evening:

  • Chronic sleep deprivation (5-6 hours of sleep per night) causes cumulative deterioration of memory, decreases in mood, general function, and sleepiness.
  • Lack of sleep can hinder muscle recovery AND can cause you to lose weight – but primarily from muscle mass.
  • Sleep deprivation interrupts critical metabolic functions including the production of HGH (human growth hormone).
  • Studies show that increased sleep (9-10 hours per night) can improve athletic performance and endurance across multiple sports.
  • Chronic lack of sleep has been associated with obesity and cardiovascular disease.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re getting the right quality of sleep, which is just as important has how much you sleep.

Changing your sleep habits is one of the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to improve your personal life, work results, mood, and fitness results.

Chat soon.

-Matt

 

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