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Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise - A Thought About Sleep

There's an old saying by Benjamin Franklin: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."

I was on Facebook this morning. A good friend of mine from college is on there. She's challenges me to keep exercising all the time. She also has a great sense of humor, and I laughed this morning when I read her status:

"If early to bed and early to rise are supposed to make me healthy, wealthy and wise, then what can I expect from ridiculously late to bed and even more horribly early to rise?!?!"

Of course, true to her energizing, happy personality, this elicited some humorous comments from others and a big grin from me, but then I thought, "What a great teaching moment!" So in spite of the humor intended by her comment, here's some serious considerations for you.

Do you realize that during sleep is the only time that your body repairs itself and restores vital chemicals that it needs to run? In our lifestyles today, we tend to sleep just a few hours per night then work and/or play (usually mostly work) for most of the hours of the day. This pattern of sleep and work does to our body the same thing that our credit card does to our bank account. Think about it.

When we don't have enough money, we tend to use our credit card. It's quick and easy. It delays our payment, so we can buy things we do -- or often, do not -- need. While we don't see any immediate hardship, by the end of our billing cycle we HAVE to pay back the money that we borrowed. This isn't too bad as long as we pay back all that is owed within the same month that it is borrowed. However, if we don't, we are billed even more in the form of a finance charge. The longer we refrain from paying off our debt, the greater the finance charge. Pretty soon, we can no longer pay the minimum required by the credit company, so we start borrowing from others until we end up declaring bankruptcy which affects us for years!

Sleep is no different. There are times when we don't have a choice to deprive ourselves of sleep to do what has to be done. There are other times that we forego sleep in order to play a bit more. Either way, we are borrowing from the credit line of our body. After awhile, just like credit card debt has to be repaid, our body demands sleep as repayment so that it can repair injuries, fight sickness, replenish vital chemicals such as adrenaline and serotonin, and do all sorts of other things to restore and maintain its health. Often, we do not give it the sleep it needs at the time that payment is required, so the body breaks down further. We start seeing more allergies, sickness, and other symptoms of our debt to our bodies. We borrow from other sources such as energy drinks to pay off our body so that we can go a little longer. All we are really doing, however, is exacerbating the problem because energy drinks and caffeine (coffee, soda, tea, etc.) tap our already depleted adrenaline stores to try to keep us going. The result? Our body demands that we declare health-bankruptcy. We get sick. We have no energy. We get brain fog. It sets us up for cancer, depression, mood-swings, inability to cope with circumstances, and so many other problems.

Who knew that sleep played such a vital role?

The body needs enough sleep. There is a cycle of sleep that our body goes through several times per night. In one book I read, it said that we need to go through each of the cycles five times each night for our body to completely restore and heal itself. Five cycles take 7-8 hours. Prime hours are from 10-12 at night. In my own experience, I know that I do best if I get to bed by 10:30 and sleep at least 7 hours (preferably 8) each night.

So how do we repay our sleep debt?

Unfortunately, restoring our body in sleep is not quite like paying off the credit card. The bank supplying your credit card has a certain amount of money. The bank's desire is to make money, and it does so by investing the money that it has. It gives some of that money to you in credit. If you pay it back quickly, there's no harm to the bank. If you do not, however, the bank has to recoup the money that it lost by not being able to invest it. Therefore, it charges you a finance charge. The more money that you borrow, the less the bank makes in investments, the more it charges you the difference which is why the amount that you owe increases exponentially until you pay it off.

Now think about this for a moment. With debt, you can quickly end the cycle by paying off the bank. That's the last that you have deal with it. However, the bank still has to recoup its losses. It may take some time for the investments to rebuild any money that the bank lost, but it will restore its financial homeostasis. (At least that's the way it is supposed to happen.) There's a difference when it comes to sleep. Sleep might be the currency, but we are repaying ourselves, not an external source. Therefore, we sleep and our body must invest that sleep throughout itself to repair and restore all that was broken down and/or used up.

You cannot short yourself 4 hours of sleep one night, sleep an extra 4 hours the next night and expect everything to be back to normal. Rebuilding your body can take time. One of the great things about our body is that we don't have to repay every hour of sleep that we lost. If we just take time to sleep the necessary amount and rest or relax a little during the day (read a book, lay out in the sun, throw a frisbee with friends, etc.), our body will still repair and restore itself while we sleep.

Ben Franklin was right about early to bed and early to rise. It makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise. We maintain health. It costs less in healthcare and related expenses. The person who gets enough sleep is truly wise. So start getting the sleep you need, and you might just find that your body starts working better!


Great article, Bri!!! In fact, I should say, "Great Website!" You've done such a terrific job encouraging people in their journey toward fitness!! I like your transparency, and your grasp of the facts, as well. It's not just some touchy-feely-this-is-my-life site, and not just a hey-let's-stick-to-the-facts site either. It's a great combo!!! Kuddos... SKINNY!!! :)
-- Shelli

Excellent post Brian. Very good info and insight. Thanks!
-- Bob

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CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING RELATED TO HEALTH AND FITNESS! I am under a doctor's care for my general health, and my workouts are overseen by a professional trainer. I consult with licensed dieticians about what I eat. I am blogging about my experience here in the hopes that it might inspire you to get healthy as well. However, you must realize that I am not a doctor. The views on this site are only my opinion or understandings about what I'm learning. In some cases, I'm just reporting about what I find from other sources. Therefore, before you do any type of exercise, change your diet or make other health related decisions, check with your doctor, trainer, dietician, nutritionist or other health professional.

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