While the seven dwarfs in Snow White are cute, the one that gets a lot of grief is Sleepy! The poor little guy goes through life tired all the time and misses out on a lot of fun. Sound familiar? I dare say you are not getting enough sleep and you are not alone. Many people operate on too little sleep and are so used to it they feel being tired is normal.
Functioning on too little sleep is the subject in a new documentary from National Geographic, called "Sleepless in America". It found 40 percent of Americans are sleep deprived, and it's affecting our waking lives, from memory lapses to irritability and depression.
According to Dawn Dugle, the digital age has increased the pace at which we live and the volume of information we are bombarded with and processing every waking moment. Many of us forgo sleep in order to “get it all done!” Pushing aside sleep does more harm than good. You might think you're getting more done or fitting in a workout, but when our bodies don't get the required seven to eight hours of sleep at night, we're putting more stress on our bodies.
My coach is adamant that I get 7.5 to 8 hours of good sleep every night and when I don’t, not only does he give me a stern scolding; I see my workouts and other daily functions suffer.
"Your body is designed to release 'good hormones' (repair and build muscle) at night, while you sleep," said Dr. Andrea Lewis, assistant professor of otolaryngology and communicative sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. "When you don't get enough sleep, your body actually releases 'bad hormones. Those "bad" hormones can lead to cardiovascular issues, hormonal changes in your body, obesity and diabetes.”
Unfortunately when we are tired, our bodies crave sugar and carbs as these are simple fuels that provide an immediate burst of energy. They are fine when working out, but only add to health issues when use to stay awake.
Some indicators that you are sleep deprived include:
1. Memory lapses, such as forgetting part of your drive to work or zoning out during a meeting or lecture
2. Having to work harder to control your emotions
3. Lack of energy
4. Not feeling like doing things you normally love to do
5. Difficulty losing weight
6. Not enjoying your life
If that is not bad enough, a chronic lack of sleep can lead to reduced memory and concentration, depression, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.
All is not lost. In many cases, it's an easy fix that is entirely in our control. Dr. Lewis said the majority of sleep deprivation cases are related to people's lifestyles such as trying to do too much in a day, electronics, and watching TV right before bedtime.
"Once you start watching television, it stimulates your brain and keeps you awake longer," Dr. Lewis said. And she urges you to get the television out of the bedroom altogether, making it strictly a place for sleeping. That means no electronics or computers in the bedroom either.
While poor little Sleepy goes through life missing a lot, I now understand how Sleeping Beauty got her name. Not only is beauty sleep real, it’s a necessity for your health!
HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast. He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.