Usain Bolt is considered the greatest sprinter of all time.

When asked what he considers to be the most important part of his daily training regime he responded with – Sleep. “Sleep is extremely important to me,” he said. “I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.”

Bolt sleeps for 8 to 10 hours per night and he is not alone. Roger Federer gets 11 to 12 hours sleep per night. Lebron James gets 12 hours of sleep per night.

Despite various studies concluding that adequate sleep like adequate nutrition and physical activity, is vital to our well-being, the American Sleep Association (ASA) reports that 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder.

“Forgoing sleep is like borrowing from a loan shark,” says David H. Hansson author of Rework. “Sure you get those extra hours right now to cover for your overly-optimistic estimation, he says, but at what price? The shark will be back, and if you can’t pay, he’ll break your creativity, morale, and good-mannered nature as virtue twigs.”

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

  1. Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that “between 2005 and 2009 there was an estimated average of 83,000 crashes each year related to drowsy driving. This annual average includes almost 886 fatal crashes (2.5% of all fatal crashes), an estimated 37,000 injury crashes, and an estimated 45,000 property damage only crashes.”

2. Illness

The Washington Post reports that “Sleep deprivation can put the body into a state of high alert, increasing the production of stress hormones and driving up blood pressure.” In addition, sleep deprivation can result in heart disease, heart attacks heart failure, strokes and diabetes.

3. Intelligence

Sleep deprivation negatively impacts ones’ ability to stay alert and pay attention. It becomes difficult to apply reason and solve problems. All these are required for effective learning.

4. Sex Drive

Dr. Robert D. Oexman, Director of the Sleep to Live Institute, said, “chronic sleep deprivation, which can occur even if you get a solid six hours a night (the majority of adults need at least seven), can lower levels of testosterone—the sex drive hormone—in both men and women.”

5. Hormonal Imbalance

Sleep is responsible for keeping our hormones in balance. Following are examples of hormones adversely affected by lack of sleep.

Cortisol – The body reacts to lack of sleep by increasing the production of cortisol, a stress hormone In large amounts, cortisol can break down collagen. Collagen is the protein that keeps skin smooth, elastic and youthful.

Human Growth Hormone – Sleep deprivation reduces the production of the human growth hormone. This hormone is responsible for increasing muscle mass, thickening skin, and strengthening bones.

Ghrelin and Leptin – Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates hunger and leptin is a hormone that signals fullness. Lack of sleep causes ghrelin production to increase and leptin production to decrease. It is for this reason that lack of sleep is related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and possibly to obesity.

Simple Steps to Getting a Quality Night’s Sleep

  1. Develop a regular sleep-wake schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Including on the weekends. You can use an alarm clock to help you build this habit.
  2. Design your bedroom for sleep by identifying sources of light and noise that can keep you up at night. This may include getting blackout curtains or keeping laptops, tablets and televisions out of the bedroom. In addition, try to keep your room cool around 65° F or 18° C when it is time to sleep as extreme cold or heat affects sleep quality.
  3. Exercising during the day has been shown to improve the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea. It also increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. This is important, as sleep is more a quality thing than it is a quantity thing.
  4. Develop a wind-down routine so that you are able to clear your head of any issues that may keep you up or cause you to wake up. This may involve doing yoga or meditating, reading a book or listening to soothing music or even taking a warm bath.
  5. Avoid consuming caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, refined sugar and carbs and big meals before going to bed as they will interrupt your sleep cycle by keeping you up or by waking you up in the middle of the night.

Thomas Dekker said, “Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” Success and health go hand in hand. If sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together it goes without saying then that success will remain elusive if we continue to treat sleep as a luxury and wear sleep deprivation as a badge of honor.