With all of the commitments in our lives - work, family, friends and play - we often find ourselves utilizing an "I'll sleep when I'm dead" mentality to overcome how tired we are. I'm certainly guilty of this at times, but sleep is one of the most important factors to your overall health. In fact, it may be more important than your nutrition and exercise. 

First, ask yourself a few questions:

Are you always sleepy?
Do you sleep soundly at night or wake up through the night?
When is the last time you remember dreaming?
How many hours of sleep do you get every night?
Do you go to bed at the same time each day and get up at the same time?

Sleep deprivation has become such a widespread issue in our society that most people don't even realize there's a problem. As we've come to used to being sleepy or falling asleep at our desk, we've just accepted that this is how life feels. But it's not!

When you're not getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep at night, you're essentially shooting your health efforts in the foot. When we sleep, our brain waves slow down allowing us to relax and recover. The brain waste management systems are very active during our deep sleep as they remove toxins to improve cognitive function. This is also when muscles and tissues repair themselves, which is why sleep is so vital for building muscle and exercise.

When these things don't take place during your sleep, sleep deprivation can become a chronic issue, leading to consequences including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Obesity
  • Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Mental impairment
  • Higher possibility of injury
  • Poor quality of life

Many studies show that sleep parallels the success of both muscle building and weight managements plans. In other words, if your goal is to build muscle or lose weight, you should also set goals for getting enough sleep nightly. Without sleep, you'll be limiting your success or completely hindering it. 

Here are few easy tips for resolving sleep deprivation in your life.

  1. Make sleep a priority. Invest the time in yourself to get enough sleep!
  2. Start winding down before it's time to get into bed and don't fight your circadian rhythm. Turn off electronics and dim the lights. Many electronics now have a night setting to help your brain adjust for sleep. 
  3. Go with the flow of light as much as possible - a.k.a. wake up with the sun, and go to sleep when it gets dark. If this doesn't work for your schedule, set times to be up and go to bed, and try to stick with it even on the weekends.
  4. Avoid drinking caffeine late in the day. If you have trouble falling asleep at night or wake up throughout the night, try removing caffeine from the second half of your day. You could be caffeine sensitive and not realize it.
  5. If you have trouble sleeping at night, try bedtime teas with natural herbs or taking a magnesium pill.
  6. For athletes, I recommend trying ZMA. Zinc Magnesium Aspartate is widely used in the athletic community as a recovery method. It's all natural and will help you get into a deep sleep and REM state. Be warned, it will give you vivid dreams. Everyone reacts differently, so start with a small dose.

When it comes to your overall health, sleep is one of the biggest factors. So take care of yourself, allow your body to recover fully, and get rested up so you can be fully awake to enjoy your life.