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Men's Fitness

August 2004, "Sleep or Die"

by: Shelley Drozd

Yes, you're a busy guy: Places to go, people to see, pecs to pump. So when there aren't enough hours in the day to fit it all in, you borrow 60-odd minutes from your night. Make that a habit and you may eventually fool yourself into thinking that six hours' sleep is all you need to cruise through life.

BRRRING! You can't hit snooze on this alarm. Depriving yourself of sleep is self-inflicted corporal punishment. How serious can missing a few ZZZs be? So dangerous that simply staggering around like a Night of the Living Dead extra may be the least of your problems. Sleep restriction wears down your body and beats up your brain, leaving you slow, soft, and sick - even dead - years before your time.

But don't panic (that'll only keep you up tonight). Instead, study the following eye-opening reasons why you need to spend more time with the Sandman, then apply these tips we've provided to make the sleep you're getting even more restful.

Sleepless Side Effect: Weigh Gain

Those love handles you're sporting aren't solely from that Krispy Kreme habit. Exhaustion is a main ingredient in the recipe for jelly belly. "Sleep deprivation disrupts your metabolism, seriously sabotaging efforts to maintain an ideal weight," says Jana Klauer, M.D., an obesity researcher at NYC's St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital. Here's how it works: Fat cells produce a hormone called leptin, which tells the body how much potential energy it has stored. Since leptin production peaks at night, when you're asleep, sleep deprivation can throw levels of the hormone out of whack. The end result? Your body has no idea how much energy it has banked, so you end up storing fat instead of burning it.

Sleep it off: The best way to trim the fat is to grab your 40 winks. So consider a full night's rest an integral part of any weight-loss regimen. Getting sufficient sleep will prevent lags in energy and help reduce carb cravings, notes Klauer. It'll also help build belly-busting muscle. "Sleep deprivation causes a drop in the production of the human growth hormone," says Klauer. (This ensures the fat your body stores will make a beeline for your waistline.) "After a good workout, you get a lot more deep slow-wave sleep, and it's this cell-repairing stage of sleep where up to 70% of daily growth-hormone secretion takes place in young men." Meaning, even if you're getting in your time at the gym, you still need to hit the sack to complete the biological process that makes muscles pop.

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