Here's an eye-opener that'll probably make you want to keep 'em closed: Most of us are sleep deprived. And it's taking a toll on our health.
At around seven hours per night, most Americans sleep about 20% less than a century ago, when they averaged about nine hours. This is according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Unfortunately, this 21st century consequence of living in such a fast-paced world is taking a weighty toll on our health.
Sleep deprivation, or even just a lack of quality sleep, can stress your body by elevating your cortisol levels. When levels of this stress hormone are high, your body goes into survival mode, meaning it stores body fat.
Even if you're not prone to piling on the pounds because you get plenty of exercise, cortisol can still frustrate your efforts to trim down to anything close to your ideal weight.
And if your ultimate goal is to sculpt yourself a six-pack at the gym, you're going to have to get serious about combating sleep-loss-related spikes in cortisol.
At this point, I'm sure some readers are asking themselves: How can I regularly get enough shut-eye when I'm so busy with my career and/or parenting, as well as all the other demands on my time that life throws at me?
Well, if you think that sufficient sleep is a luxury you can't afford, think again.
Studies show that elevated cortisol levels can cause you to gain weight by causing us to overeat, as well as triggering cravings for sugar and fat.
(Stress can also promote the onset of internal "visceral fat"-- which can gradually envelope your liver and intestines). It also makes it harder for you to lose weight because it slows down your metabolism, studies show.
Additionally, excess body fat also impedes your body's production of testosterone. (Ladies, don't gloss over this part because your bodies also rely on this all-important fat-burning hormone, albeit to a lesser extent than men.) Over time, diminishing testosterone levels translate into less strength, mild muscle atrophy, weaker bones, low energy, fatigue, and even a sagging sex drive.
Worse of all, such stress-related obstacles to looking your best tend to gradually go from bad to worse as you age.
So keep this all in mind the next time you consider cheating on your much-needed sleep.
However, you're not alone if you sometimes short-change yourself on much-needed shut-eye. In fact, here's an interesting correlation: Percentage-wise, there are almost as many people with a sleep deficit in the U.S. as there are overweight people, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Is this a coincidence? Maybe not.
So do yourself a big favour that your body will forever appreciate: Fully recharge your biological batteries as often as you can by getting sufficient sleep.
Or in other words, go to bed earlier more often. And stay there as long as it takes to wake up fully refreshed and revitalized the following morning.
Sleep up to 10 hours (or more) if that's what it takes. You'll feel all the better for it. And as your waistline shrinks, you'll ultimately look all the better for it, too.
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