Rest and Recovery
by Jason Heilpern on March 14, 2012 at 01:00 PM EST

Growing up I was never much of a person who enjoyed sleeping.  Its true you can ask my parents.  Every night was a fight to get me to go to bed.  As I got older I wasn’t much better.  I would stay up late into the night, finally fall asleep from exhaustion, then wake up early and try and function on only a few hours of sleep.  The problem got particularly bad when I got a job as a Corporate Safety Director for a railroad company.  I traveled all over the United Staes living out of hotels and eating at fancy restaurants.  I would work hard all day, and then get back to the hotel room and watch TV late into the night.  Every day I was tired and worn out, and I would swear to myself to go to bed early that night, but then come night fall I never would.

As I have gotten more and more involved in fitness I have found many people live a very similar life.  They work themselves to death during the day doing one thing or another, and come night fall will stay up late into the evening.  Well I am here to tell you some harsh truths about sleep!

Now I am not going to bore you with the details of what happens to the body when it doesn’t get enough sleep, but I will list some of the top side effects often found in people who suffer from sleep depravation.

1. Increased Daytime Cortisol Levels

2. Impaired Glucose Control

3. Increased Visceral Adipose Tissue

4. Decreases In Exercise Performance

Its number 4 that I REALLY want to focus on for today.  Athletes who suffer from a lack of sleep find it hard to perform even the simplest athletic requirements.

“When you are short on sleep, it’s quite typical to find yourself struggling to maintain the usual level of exercise that you normally would tolerate quite well.” (Bodybuilding.com)

When a person works out they are in essence tearing apart their muscles.  It doesn’t matter if you are running, weight lifting, rock climbing, etc.  All of it tears apart your muscles.  To become stronger your muscles have to rebuild larger, more dense then before.  It is DURING sleep that the body does the majority of its recovery.  Without it the muscles CAN NOT grow and rebuild!

Since we were children we were told to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, but most professional athletes shoot for 9-10 hours of sleep a night.  Why?  Because they understand the value rest and recovery has on their performance.  So how can you get enough rest each night.  Here are some helpful tips.

1. Set A Schedule – Pick a time to go to bed each night and a time to wake up each morning.  No matter the night, no matter what is going on you stick to this schedule like your life depends on it.  Weekday or weekend you follow your schedule.  As a side note the weekends and especially Sunday nights are when people get the least amount of sleep.

2. Make Your Bedroom A Place Of Peace – Look at your bedroom.  Is it peaceful, calming, relaxing?  Are there clothes on the floor?  Trash in the corners?  What about your bed?  Is it comfortable?  Are the sheets and blankets clean and inviting?  Your bedroom should be a place you can relax.  Get rid of the TV and replace it with a calming book.  Paint the walls a pleasant color like blue or light green.  And whatever you do NEVER get into an argument or fight in your bedroom!

3. What Kind Of Alarm Do You Use – Most people use a loud alarm that wakes them up suddenly.  There is a TON of research showing this to be harmful.  Use an alarm that draws you out of sleep naturally.  Something with soothing sounds.  There are many options out there for you to choose from.

Make sleep a priority in your life and your whole life will improve.  Your relationships with others will expand, and your athletic ability will soar.

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