I'll sleep when I die.
The mantra of more than one TYPE A person who values their waking work more than their resting state. While the state itself is a bit of a joke, many people take the value of sleep for granted and instead, sleep as little as just 4 or 5 hours and are on the go pretty the entire rest of their day. This, is a mistake.
Sleep is the body's #1 recovery system. If you drove your car 24 hours a day, non-stop, the engine would overheat, the car would stop, and likely wouldn't start again without some serious mechanical repair. The SAME is true with your body. You need sleep, and more than just a few hours.
Here are a few of the reasons why we need sleep and the negative things that can happen to our bodies when we get less than 8 hours a night:
Keeping your heart healthy- While the specifics of how much sleep helps heart health, it has been proven that those who get adequate sleep have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels; heightened levels of either increase incidence of heart attack and stroke.
Helping to prevent cancer- Research has shown that melatonin can reduce the growth of tumors in cancer patients. Exposure to light and being awake can reduce these levels, so ensuring you get plenty of sleep in a dark room may help to fend off the C word. Good enough reason to go and grab your pillow right now...
Reducing stress- As your body is awake for long periods of time, your body increases the amount of stress hormones in the blood stream. This can lead to high blood pressure and in addition to all the negatives associated with that, increased levels of stress hormones prevent us from falling asleep. It can be a vicious cycle that is only broken with consistent period of restful sleep. (practicing a variety of relaxation techniques, such as listening to soothing music, meditation, and the smell of lavender can help fend off these stress hormones and promote falling asleep)
Reducing inflammation- Another negative side effect of lack of sleep is the increase of inflammation in our body. Inflammation is blamed as the cause for a huge variety of health issues including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more. Getting 8-9 hours of sleep per night is one of the most effective ways of reducing long term inflammation in the body.
Building/repairing muscle- Are you looking to lose fat and build muscle? Then you absolutely want to optimize your sleep schedule. The body repairs cells, including those in our muscles which become damaged during tough workouts, while we sleep. If you are awake for 18-20 hours per day, it will be significantly harder for you to recover from exercise and realize the true benefits. In addition, research shows that sleeping in general can be extremely beneficial in helping your body metabolize fat and sleeping in a cool environment can help burn beige or brown fat (the kind that surrounds your organs).
NOTE: This doesn't mean that sleeping all day and being sedentary is good! Just that you should get 8-9 hours of sleep per night.
Sleep is vital. Sleep is good. So many refuse to include proper sleep as part of their daily regimen, but as you can see from the above info, getting 8-9 hours of sleep is likely as beneficial as the workouts you do and the foods you eat. It is one component of several that can lead to a healthy, happy, stress free and LONGER life. Now... GET SOME SLEEP!