We all know that sleep is absolutely critical to feeling and looking our best every day. Quality and quantity of sleep takes front and center stage when it comes to our physical, mental and emotional performance and overall well-being, right along with the other major health players: eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding fat, cholesterol, salt, refined sugar and processed foods, exercising 60 minutes a day, breathing clean air, drinking clean water and adopting an uplifting attitude of gratitude and joy.

As personal trainers, you must educate yourselves and your clients about starting and maintaining proper sleep habits. If your client has low energy as a result of a lack of sleep, his or her physical performance will suffer. The end result will be less than excellent, which will be frustrating and disappointing to your client and to you. Not only that, the compromised results can reflect your effectiveness and reputation as a trainer. To avoid this situation, emphasize the following facts, which debunk the popular sleep myths.

Sleep Is Required

Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep every night, with an overall average of about eight hours, but sleep requirements are different for each person. One way to discover how much sleep you need is to go to bed early enough several nights in a row and sleep until you wake up naturally, without an alarm.

As most of us have experienced, missing out on even one good nights sleep can compromise energy, productivity, creativity and focus its tough to maintain clarity and a good attitude when we cant even keep our eyes open. However, when one sleepless night snowballs into one night after the other, the consequences can be much more serious than a bobbing head. Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to a plethora of health issues, such as obesity, delay of healing and premature aging.

Sleep is our bodies natural cycle for healing and recuperation from illness and injury, so its no surprise that one of the common threads connecting many of the longest-lived people on the planet is rest and sleep, and plenty of it.

Many of the benefits and detriments of sleep, and lack thereof, relate to common sense. However, there are some misconceptions about rest that could be dangerous to your health. Lets open our eyes to the top nine sleep myths.

Myth #1: Sleeping in on the weekends is good for your health.

Fact: Do you ever sing the Monday Morning Blues perhaps more than just occasionally? The luxurious sleeping in on the weekends is partly responsible for those blues. Your body thrives on routine, especially when it comes to sleep cycles. If you get up at 6:00 AM during the week, then your body is happiest if you get up at 6:00 AM on Saturdays and Sundays as well.

Solution: Go to bed early enough on Friday and Saturday nights so that you naturally wake up at the same time you wake up during the week. If consistent sleep patterns are too inconvenient or too much of a sacrifice for you, then prepare yourself for singing more of the same Monday Morning Blues.

Myth #2: Snoring may be annoying to a sleep partner, but it is never harmful.

Fact: Snoring may be harmless, but it can also be a symptom of a life-threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea, especially if it is accompanied by severe daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea, or pauses in breathing while sleeping, prevents air flow, reduces oxygen levels and strains the heart and cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. People with sleep apnea awaken frequently during the night and fall asleep easily during the day, and being overweight is a common cause of sleep apnea.

Solution: Weight loss is critical. If you suspect sleep apnea, get it checked out. It is often treatable, and newer medical advancements can assist in helping you get a good nights sleep.

Myth #3: You can cheat on the amount of sleep you get.

Fact: When we dont get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to pay back. The result is sleep deprivation, which contributes to obesity, high blood pressure, mood swings and safety issues in the home, on the job and on the road.

Solution: Put your body and health first, and get to bed early enough for your full eight hours of rest.

Myth #4: Insomnia means difficulty falling asleep.

Fact: Difficulty falling asleep is only one of the four symptoms associated with insomnia. The others include waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep, frequent awakenings during the night and waking up not feeling refreshed. Insomnia can be a symptom of a sleep disorder or other health problems. According to a recent National Sleep Foundation poll, 58% of adults in this country reported at least one symptom of insomnia in the past year.

Solution: Daily exercise, loading up on lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding or eliminating stimulants from the diet, such as caffeine, chocolate and refined sugar. When insomnia symptoms occur more than a few times a week and impact a persons daily life, the symptoms should be discussed with the appropriate healthcare provider.

Myth #5: Daytime sleepiness results from inadequate nighttime sleep.

Fact: Excessive daytime drowsiness, even after a good nights sleep, can be a sign of sleep apnea or narcolepsy. Daytime sleepiness can be dangerous, as it increases the risk of falling asleep at the wheel and other injuries, and it decreases the function of the immune system, creating an environment in the body ripe for acute infections, illnesses and chronic diseases.

Solution: Sleep problems, such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea, can be diagnosed and treated. Discuss any suspected symptoms with a qualified healthcare physician.

Myth #6: Health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression, are unrelated to the quantity and quality of a persons sleep.

Fact: Studies have found a direct relationship between sleep and many health problems. Getting a good nights sleep is critical for consistent weight loss and control. Sleeping allows our bodies and metabolism to work more efficiently, and the more efficiently our metabolism works, the more efficiently our bodies can expend calories and maximum burning of calories is critical to dropping the pounds. Additionally, sleep creates energy to use for daily movement and exercise, and the more we exercise, the better we sleep, so exercise and sleep work together to help shed those layers. Also, insufficient sleep affects the quantity of growth hormone secretion linked to obesity. As the amount of hormone secretion decreases, the chance for weight gain increases. Furthermore, blood pressure usually falls during the sleep cycle, but interrupted sleep can adversely affect this normal decline, leading to hypertension and cardiovascular problems. Finally, a lack of sleep impairs the bodys ability to use insulin, leading to the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

Solution: Lose weight and add lots of fresh fruits and vegetables while avoiding fat- and calorie-loaded foods, such as meat, cheese, added oils, white sugar and flour products. Dont forget about getting enough daily exercise, and eliminate stimulants, such as coffee, chocolate and sweets from your diet.

Myth #7: The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need.

Fact: Just like most adults, people over the age of 65 need seven to nine hours of sleep. While sleep patterns change as we age, the amount of sleep we need generally does not. In fact, a poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that older adults typically do not sleep less than their younger counterparts. Poor health, not age, is a major reason why many older people report sleep problems.

Solution: Building healthy, lifelong habits is a must to getting a good nights sleep and enjoying life as a senior. Daily walking, deep-breathing and stretching exercises, spending time with family and friends, jumping into a hobby, eating the best-for-you foods and avoiding the bad-for-you foods can all contribute to a good nights sleep. Napping in the very early afternoon interferes with nighttime sleep less than later naps. Getting down to ideal body weight can be paramount in getting enough sleep rest.

Myth #8: During sleep, your brain rests.

Fact: The body rests during sleep, but the brain remains active and gets recharged. During sleep, you drift between two sleep states, REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM, in 90-minute cycles. Non-REM sleep, when our minds can still process information, has four stages with distinct features, ranging from stage one drowsiness, when one can be easily awakened, to deep sleep stages three and four, when the most positive and restorative effects of sleep occur. REM sleep is an active sleep where dreams occur and eyes move back and forth under the eyelids.

Myth #9: If you wake up in the middle of the night, it is best to lie in bed and count sheep or toss and turn until you eventually fall back asleep.

Fact: If you wake up in the middle of the night, relaxing imagery or thoughts may help to induce sleep more than counting sheep, which may be more distracting than relaxing.

Solution: Most experts agree that if you do not fall back asleep within 15-20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room and engage in a relaxing activity such as listening to music or reading. Return to bed when you feel sleepy, and avoid watching the clock.

Your beauty rest goes beyond just looks, although who likes dark circles and bags under the eyes from a lack of sleep? Adequate sleep is one of the best energy chargers, health heroes and disease warriors. Be mindful of the quality and quantity of rest you get, and build habits that are conducive to better sleep. If a consistent good nights sleep still eludes you, then seek help from the appropriate healthcare physician.

Narinder Duggal, MD, is a clinical pharmacy specialist and internist, and she is the medical director of Liberty Bay Internal Medicine. With multiple degrees and specializations, Dr. Duggals expertise includes geriatrics, diabetes, addiction, hypertension, weight loss and integrated medicine. For more information, please call 360.779.9911 or email Narinderduggal@libertybayim.com.

Dr. Leslie Van Romer is a doctor of chiropractics and an author and expert in weight loss and the prevention of diabetes, breast cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, fatigue and premature aging. She empowers people to lose weight and boost self-esteem, energy and health with doable food and lifestyle choices. She partners with Dr. Duggal to create the unique team, MD/DC Connect: The Med-Free Solution. For more information, please visit www.drleslievanromer.com or call 888.375.3754.