When was the last time you got a good 8 hours sleep? Not 6 or 7 hours, or were woken up in the night because the dog next door was barking or the car alarm across the street was going off. We mean a good, solid, dreamless 8 hours? We’re willing to bet it’s probably been awhile. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that we need a solid 8 hours of good sleep if we are to work and play at our optimum level.
Being fully rested isn’t simply just common sense, it’s actually more beneficial than you may realize. Studies have found that while you sleep you strengthen memories and even “practice” skills that you learn while you’re awake.
“If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice,” says Dr. Rapoport, who is an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. “But something happens while you sleep that helps you to learn it better.”
Sleep also helps to restructure, sort and organize those memories, therefore helping you become more creative. Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep. This may actually help spur the creative process. A well-rested mind is an ordered mind. Sleep well and you can plan your attack on the Beast, Super, or Sprint you have coming up.
Getting enough sleep sharpens our ability to pay attention. While short-term fixes may plug the occasional hole, such as sugars, caffeine and other stimulants, ultimately they can become habit forming and unhealthy. Sleep is a good, free, natural resource available to us. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation by only one night is on par with having consumed enough alcohol that would otherwise land someone operating a vehicle in jail.
It is fairly common knowledge that inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and even premature aging. Research on sleep levels indicates that people who get less sleep (around 6 hours a night or less) have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get a solid 8 hours. A 2010 study found that C-reactive protein, which is associated with heart attack risk, was higher in people who got six or fewer hours of sleep a night.
“People who suffer from sleep apnea or insomnia can have an improvement in blood pressure and inflammation with treatment of their sleep disorders”, Dr. Rapoport says.
Cardiovascular health is effected by both stress and sleep as well. It therefore stands to reason that getting the right amount of sleep can play a part in reducing blood pressure levels. Being well rested is good for you!
Sleeping well means more to our overall well-being than simply avoiding irritability. Emotional stability comes from being well rested and in turn, reduces the chances of depression. If you think the long hours put in during the week are the cause of your anxiety or impatience Dr. Rapoport warns that sleep cannot necessarily be made up during the weekend.
It’s not a myth that rest days are as important as training days and sleep is a huge part of that. Spartan Races aren’t places to come underprepared. Whether it’s in terms of training, nutrition,,equipment, or just as importantly, your own mind set. The brain and body both need sufficient amounts of rest. Finding that balance is something each person must do for themselves. Don’t underestimate the power of rest!
“If you sleep more on the weekends, you simply aren’t sleeping enough in the week,” he says. “It’s all about finding a balance.”
If you’re thinking about going on a diet make sure that sleep is a part of it. The University of Chicago recently found that those dieting lost more weight when well rested than those who were deprived of sleep. Some dieters in the study complained of feeling more hungry when they got less sleep than those who were well rested.
“Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain,” Dr. Rapoport says. “When you are sleepy certain hormones go up in your blood. It’s those same hormones that drive appetite.”
So what if you’re an athlete struggling to break PRs? What if no matter how many times you try you just can’t get past that training plateu? Then there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep.
A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for 7 to 8 weeks improved their average sprint times, had less daytime fatigue, and improved overall stamina. The results of this study reflected previous findings of studies conducted on tennis players and swimmers. Something to keep in mind if you’re finding that while your legs may have the muscle memory to run, jump, and climb, you’re still missing that last 10% you need to make a big push. Turns out it may be because you’re just not resting properly.
So whether you’re trying to learn the S-hook in order to finally beat that rope climb, or nail that technique of beating the slippery wall, or simply wanting to do better overall in your life, try getting a little more rest. You may find that you improve the way you want by adding one amazing thing to your routine…sleep!