Editor’s note: Zac Woodfin is a contributor who was a Green Bay Packer’s strength and conditioning coach, and is currently the head of a university football strength and conditioning program. He has a B.S. in exercise science from UAB. Zac has played for the Baltimore Ravens, the Houston Texans, and the Green Bay Packers. After his playing career, he was a performance specialist at Athletes’ Performance in Los Angeles where he worked with Olympians and athletes in the NFL, NBA, and MLB.
When it comes to our health there is one thing that can set us apart, yet millions of us around the country do not take advantage of it. I think about health from a holistic viewpoint: balance in one’s mind, body, and spirit is the meaning of true health. If one piece is missing, a person is not truly healthy. What is it that can benefit all living creatures in a holistic way? What is it that 41 million Americans are missing the boat on?
A new CDC study finds more than 40 million workers get fewer than six hours of sleep per night. That’s about 30 percent of the country’s civilian workforce. This is a major problem and my goal is to give you, the reader, a few benefits that might be an encouraging reason to get a few more zzzz’s. I’ll try to explain the benefits of sleep as it pertains to mind, body, and spirit.
Without adequate sleep, we will not reach our full potential in life. That is a fact. We are designed to recharge and heal by sleeping. I recently had a friend tell me he rarely sleeps more than 3-4 hours a night and survives the days with huge amount of caffeine and adrenaline. I asked what he does with his kids when he gets home from work and I hit an emotional button for him. He admitted that he would be physically and mentally exhausted and usually did not have the energy to spend quality time with them. Dozing off while watching TV and then getting a second wind when they went to bed was his routine. He would usually crash out anywhere from 1-2 am.
Maybe you have kids and maybe you do not. Either way, the message is the same. Your sleep can and will affect the way you treat people in your life. Spiritually, I believe the most important thing in life is to love God and love those he created. Adequate sleep will help with both.
From a fitness standpoint I want to talk about two of the most common topics in the fitness industry: losing weight and gaining muscle, and how getting 7-8 hours of sleep will help with each. My wife and I are passionate about helping people find their groove in life through fitness, nutrition, and character development. Transformation from the inside out is our ultimate goal. We had a situation where a person we were helping was doing everything right and still could not seem to drop any weight. Through further investigation we found she was not doing everything right; she wasn’t sleeping. The lack of sleep caused her to be stressed at work. Here’s the key, lack of sleep can affect the secretion of cortisol and stress can raise cortisol levels. Cortisol regulates appetite so not getting a proper amount can make you feel hungry all the time even if your body has eaten the right amount. Stress can bring on too much cortisol causing our blood sugar to elevate ultimately leading to fat storage. Sleeping 7-8 hours will lead to less stress and a balance in hormones which will ultimately lead to you achieving your fitness goals.
Those of you who like strength training and the benefits it brings, pay close attention here. Sleep can give you an edge no supplement can even come close to. Long, deep sleep can and will lead to the release of natural growth hormone in the body. Nothing provides more healing, muscle growth, or energy than GH. Those who get great sleep, get that GH release. Those who don’t, well you guessed it, they don’t get the release. Growth hormone is produced by our pituitary gland. Consistency will help regulate the pituitary gland to release growth hormone daily.
Now that you know some of the main reasons to get adequate sleep, here are a few tips that will get you on the right track.
- Set the thermometer on 70 degrees or lower while sleeping.
- Sleep in the darkest room possible. Use blackout shades if needed.
- Take a warm shower before bed.
- No caffeine after 2pm.
- Remove all electronics from your room. TV’s, computer’s etc.
- Go to bed and wake up the same time daily. Your body loves rhythm.
Start making sleep a priority and you will find yourself more productive, happier, and healthier. It does take discipline as anything worth having in life but I promise you it will be well worth. Now go get some Zzzzz.