Sleep is one column our whole health is built upon. Sleep and Health essentially walk beside each other. Besides nutrition and movement, few things have a comparable big impact on our daily well-being as a good night’s rest has.
But, controversially sleep is often that which many trim down first if time seems missing.
Maybe to get work done, to catch up studies, to have more felt free time or to go out. But I think this mindset is worth thinking about.
Poor sleep shouldn’t be treated that way and always come last. Plus, it comes with a myriad of problems.
It should be the other way round – it should be a priority of yourself considering the enormous effects it has on nearly everything in your life.
Sleep and Health – What makes it of such importance?
Sleep, movement, and nutrition lay the groundwork our whole well-being is based upon. The trifecta of human health if you will.
If one of them misses, even to a small amount, we will inevitably suffer or even die. That said, sleep is even more important than the other two.
You won’t suffer that much after two days binging Netflix and staying in bed the whole day. You will survive for two days without food – really! Or even two days without much water. But try to stay up two days in a row – you won’t die – but it will be a hell of a ride.
While unconsciuos, many recovery processes happen:
Your body repairs itself. It repairs all the damage you inflicted yourself while you have been awake. A workout counts to that, too. Muscle growth is nothing more than damaging your muscles on a micro-scale and come back stronger. Sleep is for your body maintenance time.
Your psyche repairs itself, too. Learned knowledge gets backed up from mid-term to long term memory. Plus, your brain connects your experiences freely with others. Your brain is extremely active while asleep!1 Sleep is for your mind like daily psychotherapy.
That said, sleep enhances EVERY process in your body.Yes, you’ve read that right – every freakin process.There is and will never be a better recovery method than sleep. No supplement, beauty hack or medicine will ever resemble that. Not even close.
For your brain, being awake is low-level-damage. 2And sleep has the role to maintain that daily damage. But it is even better. It is like the overachiever at your workplace. It doesn’t only repair the damage. Sleep even adjusts your body perfectly to the damage it repeatedly is exposed to.
How much sleep do I need?
Tricky question, mate! It is kinda like asking: How many calories do I need? And the answer to both is – it depends!
Sleep is like nutrition very individual:
Some are fine with 7 hours while others need their 9 hours to function properly.
Others wake up early while others are night owls.
Some prefer to sleep in one chunk while others like long napping midday.
But one thing I can say surely – that 4 or even 6 hours of sleep are adequate. That is a myth.3 I remember a music teacher of mine in middle school, who claimed to be 4 hours a night in bed and functions properly while doing so. Unfortunately, she forgot a lot of stuff and was totally out of it…
Ask yourself the following questions:
How long do I sleep, when there is no alarm clock set?
After how many hours do I feel ready for the day and can not sleep anymore?
Do I use the weekends to catch up missed sleep? (Spoiler: That does not work out)
The most important point is that you should feel rejuvenated after waking up. Not immediately, but definitely.
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This should be the best indicator to find the appropriate amount of sleep just for yourself.
5 Health Benefits of Sleep
Sleep is the best recovery method there is
You can spend all day long in the sauna, meditate for hours and get a 3,5h Thai massage, but nothing will come close to the recovery power of rest. This is why every athlete and every human, who plans to be healthy should prioritize his time asleep.
Sleep is the best anti-aging strategy
Most of our recovery processes take place while we sleep. If you don’t sleep enough – no money you can possibly spend for beauty treatments will replace that. Think of that point, when going the next time to the drug store and you’re reading about all the products’ insane marketing promises.
While asleep we actually learn new stuff and connect experiences
Every problem can be solved after a good night’s sleep. Seemingly unsolvable puzzles are in fact solved easily the next morning. I encountered that point all too often. Especially creativity and motor control are way better after some rest. You can’t handstand? Try it, sleep on it and maybe then it works out!
Sleep is one big contributor to muscle growth and fat loss
Working out equals damaging your body and brain so that it can grow. Inflict low-dose pain for low-dose growth.
While asleep, your body’s growth hormone levels rise strongly. Therefore, the saying, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is right.
You need appropriate stress followed by sufficient rest to grow.
Big News: Time in bed keeps your brain fit
Better Creativity, enhanced concentration, a better mood, avoidance of depressions and chronic stress. These and a myriad more of things are all positively influenced by sleep.
New research discovered that while asleep your brain detoxifies itself. That happens through the so-called glymphatic system.4
That said, sleep is also the best prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Let’s make sleep great again!
My goal was to show you how important bedtime really is and to throw that mindset aboard that sleep is the first to cut down in stressful times. Sleep’s health benefits and its impact on your overall well-being are tremendous.
I bet nearly none of your tasks are that important that they can’t be done on the next morning. And if they are – get your *** down to work and stop reading that you lazy slob!
I am aware that everyone has to step from time to time out of his routines, too. Going out, having fun and doing stupid things isn’t per se bad. It is all about balance.
But he who is partying every weekend, studying till midnight, or gives a damn about a good night’s rest, shouldn’t be surprised if he lives below his potential. Or worse, encounters real medical issues.
What I learned is that 2h of productive and focused work outdo every 8h done lightheartedly.
If I got you interested in sleep now I can recommend this book wholeheartedly: Why we Sleep* by the sleep scientist Prof. Matthew Walker. It is an eye-opening, fact-loaden, and very comprehensive book about sleep. I would even say it is the only book you need to read on that topic.
Ok that’s it from me. See you around, you night owls!,
2This article covers all the basic functions of sleep. Unfortunately, I can’t list them all here or this article will get tremendously long. Sorry! :-D
Pretty philosophic, isn’t it? Being conscious equals damage?
Little funfact to show that everything is relative in medicine: There are a few people in the world with a gene disorder who seem to function properly round about 4-6 hours of sleep. But the odds are 1:4.000.000 to have it. It is more likely that you are crushed by a meteorite 1:700.000, become the next Warren Buffet 1:800.000 or that your pilot is drunk 1:117. Oh! – WTF…
This system is your brains lymphatic system! This beginner’s guide about the glymphatic system is loaded with interesting information.