There is one thing you and I probably have in common: we are not getting enough sleep. While we all wish to achieve those beautiful hours of rest and relaxation, we often only get five or six of the recommended eight hours. Let’s be real. Life happens. Many times people view sleep as unproductive time, but on the contrary, sleep is as important for your health as what you eat or do for exercise.
A lack of sleep leads to weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, depression, lower immune system response, premature aging and impaired thinking. Lack of sleep is also a primary cause of car accidents; the American Academy of Sleep Medicine report an estimated 250,000 sleep traffic accidents each year.
Feeling ravaged by hunger after a sleepless night is nature’s response to the hormonal shift you just experienced. The body experienced the negative impact of a lack of sleep on leptin and ghrelin hormones. When you don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels decrease, and you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. Ghrelin levels rise, and appetite is stimulated. The two situations combined make people overeat.
While asleep, your body is busy repairing and rejuvenating. Rest is a recharger. With seven hours of sleep most nights, systems will work right.
Just as a good night’s sleep can greatly improve an athlete’s speed, accuracy and reaction time, so too can sleep improve a Soldier’s performance both at home and on the battlefield. If you are training intensely for an upcoming physical fitness test or a field training exercise, you may need a bit more sleep than the recommended eight, just as you likely need to take in more calories than usual.
If you have trouble sleeping at night, here are some helpful tips:
• Stick to a set schedule, even on the weekends.
• Have a winding down routine at night.
• Skip caffeine after 5 p.m. and forego the alcohol.
• Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep; most people sleep better in total darkness.
• Silence your smartphone. Better yet, keep it out of your bedroom.
• Choosing the right mattress, sheets, pillows and comforter can dramatically improve your comfort and quality of sleep
• Avoid doing anything you consider remotely stressful in your bedroom.
• Make your bedroom a peaceful environment where you get the seven to eight hours of sleep your body needs for optimal health and performance.
Making a conscious effort to get more sleep isn’t an easy thing; it takes commitment. However, once you make the change, you will notice a dramatic improvement in your body’s overall performance. If you need help developing a sleep plan or an extra set of eyes to help you examine your daily routine, stop by the Wiesbaden Army Wellness Center. We’re more than happy to help you on your journey toward successful sleep patterns.
Richard Hoke is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ACE Certified Health Coach at the Wiesbaden Army Wellness Center.