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Clean Eat Education :: Sleep - Is Eight (8) Hours REALLY the Magic Number?

EducationWhitney Carlson2 Comments

Your dreams are amazing– why would you want to cut them short? The truth – Life gets in the way! A human’s basic needs are food, water and sleep.  When we deprive our bodies of one of these basic needs, we are unable to function at our best or even anywhere near our best.  Optimal performance as it relates to our jobs, our families, our favorite sport, our hobbies and even our ability to remember is affected when we deprive ourselves of sleep.


So, what’s the magic formula for sleep?  Well… it’s not that easy.  Researchers suggest that the average adult, over the age of 18, needs seven (7) to nine (9) hours of GOOD sleep (basal sleep) per night.  What is GOOD sleep or basal sleep? It’s just actual, off in “la la land”, sleep.  We often accumulate BAD sleep or sleep debt if you wish to call it that, when we are stressed out, sick or we are in an uncomfortable environment (think freshman year of college sacked out on your friend’s hand-me-down couch).


Risks and Characteristics Associated with Lack of GOOD Sleep:

We may already know these, as some are obvious, but listing them out is quite unnerving!

1. Lack of cognitive (brain) ability to remember details.

2. Lack of general daily productivity and focus. (Don’t forget about those TPS reports!)

3. Increase of car accidents, accidents on the job and general clumsiness.

4. Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems.

5. Increased risk of psychiatric problems including depression and substance abuse.

6. Increased BMI (Body Mass Index). YES – THAT’S AN INCREASE IN BAD BODY WEIGHT (FAT). Try reaching your fitness and weight loss goals without sleep – NOT happening!


Sleeping for Weight Loss and for Increased Fitness:

When we sleep, we help provide our bodies the energy to regulate its daily functions.  One such function is regulation of our hormone levels.  When we sleep, our bodies regulate our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for the break down, or metabolism of sugars, proteins, fats, minerals and water in our bodies.


Research also suggests a connection between sleep and insulin levels. Insulin is responsible for keeping your blood sugar levels healthy and in balance.  Lack of sleep increases these levels, which cause a spike in blood sugar, which in turn promotes the storage of fat in your body. Definitely a hindrance if you are looking to drop those pounds.  


I am TOO Stressed to Sleep. What can I do to increase my ability to get GOOD  sleep?

1.  Allow yourself to sleep only as much as your body needs.  This may take time to determine, but learn to listen to your body and adjust your sleep schedule accordingly.  Just because it is the weekend, don’t let yourself sleep from midnight to noon – keep a regular schedule or you will pay for it on Monday.

2.  Do something for yourself before you go to sleep. Listen to your favorite tunes (ahem… relaxing music, not head-banging heavy metal or rap music), have a one-on-one conversation (not an argument – save those topics for later) with your spouse, read a few chapters in your favorite book in a chair (skip reading in bed – not good!)

3.  Try to make yourself as comfortable for sleep as possible. Is your pillow as hard as a rock? It may just be time for a new pillow. Do you wake up sweating at night because it gets too hot in your house? Adjust the thermostat before you go to bed to ensure maximum comfort.

4.  Keep your bedroom as a place for sleeping only (and well…. Ahem… maybe a little of that other stuff too!)

5.  Eat at least 2-3 hours before bedtime to ward off any heart burn or indigestion that may disrupt your ability to sleep soundly.

6.  Don’t grab a cup of high-octane coffee right before you go to bed! Lay off the caffeine and get more rest!


Can I get too much sleep? What happens if I do? How can I avoid it?

Quick answer – Yes. There is such a thing as too much sleep.  Remember, don’t start waking up your spouse or children right at the eighth hour mark – they may require more sleep than you.

If you sleep too much, you may find that you are prone to depression (I would certainly be depressed if I had less hours in the day to accomplish all of my tasks!), and increased illness. Combat this by regulating your sleep. Allow yourself to sleep for as much as recommended (9 hours) and assess how you feel.  Feel groggy? Too rested? Dial it back and set an alarm for 30 minutes less each day until you start to feel like yourself again.

Go Catch Some Zzzzs!