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Why You Need More Than 6 Hours Sleep

June 04, 2015 3 min read

It's so hard to go to bed early - especially when it feels like there's not enough time in the day to get anything done. But before you argue that you function just fine on a few hours of rest, keep in mind that could just be the exhaustion talking. Turns out, the more sleep deprived you are, the poorer your judgment becomes regarding how much sleep you actually need. Below are some reasons to visit the sandman a little longer each night - clue: they impact your health, athletic performance and weight!

Snooze to Lose

Losing weight doesn't happen over night but you can help you maintain your healthy weight overtime with proper sleep patterns. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that when sleepy subjects were shown images of fatty foods, it triggered a strong response in the area of their brains associated with appetite, as well as a decrease in activity in the area related to making rational decisions based on consequences. In short, if you aren't getting enough rest, not only will you likely crave more high-calorie foods, you’ll be less likely to resist them. Even more eye opening was that the study found that the urge to snack had nothing to do with the body’s need for energy to make up for a lack of sleep. Even when energy needs were met, participants still craved high-carb, high-fat foods. Not much of a science nerd? Well, consider the most obvious weight-gain dangers associated with lack of sleep: the more hours you spend awake, the more calories you’re going consume, as you’re likely to require more meals in 20 hours than you are in 16. Not to mention the more tired you are the more your workouts are going to suffer, so those extra calories get stored as fat rather than burned as fuel.

Why Athletes Need Sleep

That strong and toned physique you’re after? It doesn’t all get built in the gym. Muscle growth and repair occurs during the deep stages of sleep, when hormones required for restoration and development are released. You’ve heard of human growth hormone? It’s most abundant while you’re snoozing.Still not convinced? Fatigue can cause negative side effects on a metabolic level too, impairing your endurance performance as well as recovery, not to mention increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes. Research from the University of Chicago Medical School studied the effects of three different durations of sleep in healthy, young males. After only one week of reduced sleep (four hours per night), the participants’ ability to manage glucose levels in their blood slowed by almost 40 percent. This influence on the body’s ability to process glucose is supported by several studies that suggest a correlation between sleeping less than five hours a night and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The subjects also experienced elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, a catabolic hormone linked to impaired recovery in athletes, as well as memory impairment, age-related insulin resistance and the accumulation of abdominal fat. At the very least, you can’t give your workouts your all if you're under slept—you may even end up hurting yourself if you’re feeling weak or unfocused.

How Much Should You Get

According to the National Sleep Foundation, there is no magic number that applies to everyone. What can be said with certainty is that research shows individuals who regularly clock seven to nine hours of quality sleep tend to enjoy healthier and longer lives.As for how many hours you need for optimal health and athletic performance, the answer is individual to each person. Start aiming for seven to eight hours, and use your alarm clock as a clue. If you are getting enough sleep you will naturally wake up at the same time each day, likely about five minutes before the alarm.

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