I am not, I regret to say, a discreet and fetching sleeper. Most people when they nod off look as if they need a blanket; I look as if I could do with medical attention. I sleep as if injected with a powerful experimental muscle relaxant. My legs fall open in a grotesque come-hither manner; my knuckles brush the floor. Whatever is inside — tongue, uvula, moist bubbles of intestinal air — decides to leak out. From time to time, like one of those nodding duck toys, my head tips forward to empty a quart or so of viscous drool onto my lap, then falls back to begin loading again with a noise like a toilet cistern filling. And I snore, hugely and helplessly, like a cartoon charachter, with rubbery flapping lips and prolonged steam-valve exhalations. For long periods I grow unnaturally still, in a way that inclines onlookers to exchange glances and lean forward in concern, then dramatically I stiffen and, after a tantalizing pause, begin to bounce and jostle in a series of whole-body spasms of the sort that bring to mind an electric chair when the switch is thrown. Then I shriek once or twice in a piercing and effeminate manner and wake up to find that all motion within five hundred feet has stopped and all children under eight are clutching their mothers’ hems. It is a terrible burden to bear.
- Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country
The passage above is one of the funniest things I’ve read in recent history. I was sitting on the train this morning crying I was laughing so hard reading his book. But aside from being hilarious to onlookers, it’s a reminder that no matter how you sleep, it is a very necessary part of being healthy so it must be done. It cannot be underestimated how important sleep is. You really must get at least 6-8 hours a night. And if it’s a choice between only sleeping 5 and getting up and working out, choose sleep. It’s better for you in the short and the long run as your body needs time to recover and it’s not until the fourth stage of sleep (there are six total) that the hormones that set to work repairing and rebuilding your muscles are released. Plus, there’s really no point in doing a workout at half steam. Sixty minutes of plodding along on the treadmill without the energy to get your heart rate up is a waste of time. Instead, sleep an extra thirty, and then spend thirty minutes doing hill repeats or sprint intervals. You’ll burn more calories and tax your muscles to a higher level, which leads to more strength later on.
And aside from the muscle angle, don’t even get me started on the number of studies that have proven your ability to think and remember are vastly improved the more you sleep you get. So despite the snoring, drooling, and shrieking (or teeth grinding - guilty!) make sure you get your zzzzzzs.