161 hours part 1: Sleep


by Devin Sarno, NSCA-CPT

Let’s say you are in the gym working out for an average of an hour a day. In a given week, that is 7 out of 168 hours during the week. In the grand scheme of things, that is a very small portion of your week. So even though you may be killing your workouts, you still have 161 hours that are unaccounted for; what are you doing with that time?

That 161 hours is where most people have the greatest struggles and shortcomings during their fitness journeys. How much do you sleep? When are you sleeping? Do you know your BMR? What do your daily macronutrient totals look like? Are you eating too much? Are you eating enough? Do you hydrate well enough? What do you hydrate with? Are you stressed at work? Are you stressed at home? Do you sit most of the day? Do you let yourself recover adequately? Do you stretch or foam roll? It goes on and on, and the answers to these questions and how you spend that “other” 161 hours are arguably more important than the 7 that you spend in the gym exercising.

In part one of this series, we are going to talk about sleep. We spend approximately a third of our lives sleeping, so it has to be an important piece of the 161 hours right? According to a study completed by sleepfoundation.org, sleep needs vary from person to person; but the amount of sleep that an adult (ages 18-64) needs ranges from 7-9 hours a night. If you aren’t meeting your sleep needs, especially if it’s a regular occurrence, it has effects on your whole body.

Sleep deprivation weakens your immunity. It not only puts one at a greater risk for contracting an illness, but it also lengthens your recovery time for an illness. Long-term sleep deprivation even puts you at risk for things like heart disease and diabetes. Lack of sleep also leads to one of the things we are most commonly looking to avoid with regular exercise: weight gain. If you do not get enough sleep, it not only affects your energy to exercise but causes your body to produce less of the hormones that control hunger and fullness; which often will lead to overeating. Lack of sleep also is a contributing factor to high blood pressure. Prolonged sleep deprivation can even put you at risk for psychological issues such as impulsive behavior, paranoia, and even depression; which will have a significant effect on the remainder of that time you spend outside of the gym.

One other extraordinarily relevant effect sleep has on your time spent in the gym is hormone production. At least three hours of uninterrupted sleep is necessary for testosterone production.

Interrupted sleep also has a negative effect on the production of growth hormone as well. These two hormones are very important to the results you receive from your time in the gym. They affect the quality of your workout and the recovery process. Growth hormone, in particular, helps build muscle mass due to its function in muscle recovery and cell and tissue repair.

Sleep is quite possibly the most overlooked aspect of physical health that there is. Everybody says they love sleep, yet most pay no mind to how much they are getting compared to how much they need. While there are a number of contributing factors, you absolutely cannot perform optimally without adequate sleep. So if you feel like you are plateauing, or maybe even regressing in regards to reaching your physical health and fitness goals, consider how much sleep you are getting on a regular basis and whether or not you may have to make some lifestyle changes in order to give your body the rest that it needs.


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