Research currently indicates that most humans need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep nightly, with 8-10 hours being even better. (We know, we know…10 hours is crazy, but we’re here to tell it to you straight and to give you some tips to help you make improvements, not to say to you what you want to hear..)
Functioning on 4-6 hours of sleep may seem doable at the time, especially with a busy schedule, but it is NOT sustainable long-term. Being sleep deprived will hurt your performance, mental health, and body composition.
Symptoms of Ongoing Sleep Deprivation
(6 or fewer hours of sleep per night)
- Anxiety and depression
- Decreased ability to recover
- Water retention
- Slowed metabolic rate
- Cravings for high-calorie food
- Low energy
- Mental fogginess
As you can see, sleep has a HUGE effect on how the body functions on a cellular level, particularly on your endocrine system (hormones) and recovery.
The Hormone Waterfall
When you’re not getting enough sleep, your cortisol levels will elevate and trigger a series of biochemical reactions, including increased ghrelin concentrations, which will increase hunger for calorically dense foods and can then impact your behavior.
As your feelings of fatigue increase, as a response, your appetite will increase as your body tries to provide more energy for its daily functions. If you are trying to maintain a caloric deficit, this response can present a possible roadblock to dietary adherence.
Getting enough high-quality sleep will improve recovery, which will increase lean muscle mass, specifically by rebuilding broken down cells and tissues (like muscle). The brain releases hormones while you sleep directly responsible for protein synthesis and muscle growth (including testosterone and HGH).
It’s not just your body composition that suffers from decreased recovery, and performance will suffer too. Specifically, your explosive power, speed, response time, and coordination will suffer the most. This is significant because if motor control and response time are reduced during training, the risk of injury increases.
Happiness and Mood!
It’s also worth mentioning that lack of sleep can have a significant impact on your mood, motivation, and mental clarity. When you are tired, you will feel bogged down, more stressed, and more emotional. This doesn’t lend itself to feeling your best in general, plus it will zap your motivation to workout.
9 Tips for Better Sleep!
- Establish a nightly wind-down routine. Hot baths, comfy clothes, dim lights, no loud noises, or screens are ideal.
- Cut back on screen time. Americans spend, on average, 5.7 hours per day on their phones. Much of this time is spent mindlessly scrolling. Cut back on scrolling to make more time for sleep.
- Get in bed 30 minutes before you need to fall asleep.
- Work daily to be productive —Mark things off your to-do list so you don’t have to fret about them later.
- Set realistic timelines for home and work projects. Don’t back yourself into a corner, which can lead to late nights meeting unrealistic deadlines.
- Decrease intake of stimulants like caffeine, pre-workout, and coffee beverages (especially after 2 pm).
- Stay consistent with your training! It will make your body and mind more prepared for a good night’s sleep.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule when possible. Some people are early risers, and others function better at night. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, continuity is a great teaching tool for your body and can help regulate predictable sleep patterns.
- If sleeping for 7+ hours per day is not feasible due to individual circumstances, planning routine naps into your day does a good job of minimizing the risk of SD.
If stress plays a significant role in your sleep issues, developing a plan to reduce stress will have a considerable impact on your life. It will take time, personal reflection/development, therapy, or work with a coach to define your triggers, struggles, and to set a plan of action in place to make long term behavior changes.