If you want to lose weight, they say it's 90% diet, 10% exercise.
There are dozens of diets to follow. Each seems to be more difficult or strict than the last.
You can exercise for 4 minutes, 30, or more to get rock hard abs and become the next top model.
The list goes on and on... You can probably think of at least a dozen that haven't been mentioned.
But if you think that makes diet the most important and exercise a close runner-up, you're dead wrong.
Don't get me wrong. You still need to prioritize both of them, but this one thing is ranked above them.
Sleep is what you need
This is my personal belief and I will defend it until the day I die. I've seen the results first-hand. And it happens the same almost every single time. Many will tell you fix these other things (diet, exercise) and you'll fix your sleep. But it's not that way at all.
So if you've had trouble sticking to healthy lifestyle, there's a good chance you haven't fixed your sleep. Once you figure it out, life will be much easier.
You'll have an easy time following whatever diet you want to. You'll actually feel like going to the gym. And that's just the start.
Getting real, undisturbed sleep is loaded with benefits.
1) Sleep kicks grumpy to the curb
It's the most obvious reason you need sleep. Not getting enough sleep is worse than being hangry. Your drive to the office is miserable... Other people are terrible drivers. The line is too long... Your boss is awful...
Now, just because you get a few extra hours of sleep won't make the coffee brew faster, people drive better, or start making your boss hand out raises. But it will change how you feel about it.
Getting the right amount of sleep is like putting on armor that deflects rude comments and people you just don't like.
I'll go into deeper detail about what the "right amount of sleep" is later. For now, just know sleeping can help you wake up happy, refreshed. Some might even say bright eyed and bushy tailed, or ready to take on the day.
2) Saves you from Starbucks
It's all to easy to rationalize getting less sleep because you have caffeine to rely on. Caffeine, in itself, is not bad. It has dozens of documented benefits, including helping you focus and be more creative.
But... you build up a tolerance to it and it takes more and more caffeine to get the same effect. Now, that tolerance will go away if you take a few days off.
Regardless, when you don't get enough sleep, your body has trouble getting back to normal.
After all, sleep is when your mind and body are able to take inventory of what happened during the day and fills in the gaps you created. If you're short on sleep, you don't fully recover.
It's like charging your phone battery until it's 70% full, waiting until it gets to 0, and repeating every. single. time.
If you think you're frustrated by having to charge your phone all the time, imagine asking your body to run on 70% energy for a few years. The only difference is you can't go out and buy new upgrades for your body.
You've got to put some work in to upgrade your hardware. The only way to do that is to get some real sleep so you have the energy to make it through an entire day without needing caffeine or wishing you had a stand to keep your head up.
3) Increases motivation
If you're hitting the snooze button, it's less because you need the extra sleep and more because you just don't feel like getting out of bed.
No matter what you think or feel, those extra 10 minutes aren't doing a single thing for you except making you more tired.
Ironic, isn't it?
This lack of real, beneficial sleep you're getting is setting up sleep inertia and it sucks the motivation right out of your day. Nevermind feeling like you need caffeine just to get through the day.
All this adds up to making you feel like you hate your job, make you feel like you can't advance, and you're probably underachieving.
Or you're unable to stick to your diet or get to the gym. You probably blame the latter on not being able to get enough sleep.
And yes, there's a study that says that when you have chronic sleep deprivation (getting less than 7 hours of sleep for weeks on end), you're less motivated and less intelligent than you when you get enough sleep.
4) Maintains your willpower tank
There's a theory you have a finite amount of willpower. It's why Steve Jobs and other successful entrepreneurs have a closet like a cartoon character.
The more times you have to make a decision, the more your willpower tank empties. The less full it is, the harder it is to say "no" to the pint of cookies n' creme ice cream sitting in your freezer.
The less sleep you get, more difficult to shut off your phone. To make your way to your bed because the couch is too comfortable and the show you're bingeing just got interesting. It sets you up for a vicious cycle that you're bound to repeat night after night after night...
And no, it's not all in your head.
There have been roughly a dozen studies on the effect of self-control and lack of sleep. And they all point to a single conclusion: your willpower is complete garbage at the end of the night.
It's no coincidence bars and casinos are open until the early hours of the morning (aside from the fact that you're not supposed to gamble or drink during work hours...).
If you can manage to muster up willpower even late into the night, your weight will be that much easier to control... stress will virtually vanish... and you'll be happier overall. And it all starts with your sleep.
What is the right amount of sleep?
There's a reason a range is ALWAYS given. What works for one person is never guaranteed to work for another... in general. But sleep is special.
There are 4 stages to sleep. Roughly speaking, it takes 90 minutes to go through each phase. But some people take 10 minutes longer, other 10 minutes shorter... you get the idea.
In the end, it's impossible for anyone to look at you and say, "you need to sleep 7 hours, 31 minutes."
To figure out what's best for you, start at 8 hours for a week and see how you feel. If you're still groggy and emotionally wrecked when you wake up, go 10 minutes later or shorter. You'll know when you find the right time. It's a life-changing experience.
Getting the best sleep of your life
The trick, of course, is actually getting a good night's sleep. For most of you, it probably seems impossible. And it is... if you don't make it part of your routine.
Just like you get ready for work every day, you need to get ready for sleep. That means making a routine and sticking to it.
Initially, it'll seem hard because you have "so much to do." But you'll soon find when you get your 7-9 hours of sleep every night, you'll get a lot more done, you'll be happy, and you'll start looking forward to it.
If you're having trouble, or don't quite know where to start, check out these 17 tips and sleep easy. [link to sleep tips article]
Some sleep benefits for the road
For sleep being the most important aspect of your health, 4 benefits might seem a little light. So here are some more areas sleep affects
- Immune system
And one for the actual road.
In 2013, drowsy driving was estimated to impact 72,000 crashes... 44,000 injuries... and 800 deaths. And that may be underestimated by 6,000 accidents.
According to AAA, getting less than 5 hours of sleep is the same as driving drunk. It also raises your risk of having an accident by 400%. Missing out on just 1-2 hours of sleep doubles your risk.
So yes, getting enough sleep can save your life.