I have a confession to make.
For the past several weeks I have not made it to bed before 10pm. If you are familiar with what I preach in the blogosphere then you know I am particular about going to bed before ten. The result has been two weeks lost of training, one week for the actual cold/flu to run its course and one week to ease back into the heavy weights I was lifting. I lost a week of work during this time but since it hit me so hard it also caused major fatigue for an entire week after. For some reason, being sick didn’t give me the wake up call that my body was desperately trying to tell me because I have continued to burn the candle at both ends. Does this sound familiar? My hormones were so messed up that every time I passed the kitchen on my way to the bathroom I would crave food, especially carbohydrates and not of the fruit or vegetable variety, if you know what I mean. It’s times like these when our willpower becomes overwhelmed and skill power must take over to keep us on track with goals.
Sleep is not something you can cheat, even though we all try to do it. Its importance to our daily lives is often taken for granted but sleep is not a game you want to play carelessly as it is too similar to casinos. You may get away with a night or two of deprived sleep but over the course of a few days which turns into a few weeks, then months and for some of us, years, sooner or later the house or in this case sleep (and it’s effect on the body when you don’t get enough), always wins.
Researchers from Pennsylvania and Washington State University found that people who consistently slept fewer than eight hours each night showed a decrease in cognitive function and motor skills. Participants had shorter attention spans and increasingly poor performance with every day of shortened sleep.
In a Canadian sleep study, two groups followed the same diet and exercise program for 14 days. One group was able to sleep eight-and-a-half hours per night while the other group was sleep deprived and only allowed five-and-a-half hours of shuteye. The group who slept less lost 55% less body fat and 60% more fat free mass.
Below are some of the acute affects of a sleep-deprived individual. Those who don’t take sleep seriously often
- Wake up frustrated, angered and feeling behind the 8-ball.
- Have difficulty focusing on tasks, no matter how simple and/or routine they may be.
- Become much less productive, both at work and at home.
- Feel physically zonked.
- Experience intense food cravings
- Lose their composure over the tiniest of inconveniences. Ie- Do you remember the last time you stubbed a toe and how you reacted? Did you lose it?
When tnot getting sufficient sleep becomes chronic the fun really begins, as we are now susceptible to higher rates of cancer, diabetes, obesity, mental illness and heart disease.
MY TOP 7 TIPS FOR SUPER HUMAN SLEEP
1. Go to bed before 10pm (11pm in the summer months).
Our body naturally releases the sleep hormone melatonin prior to the sun going down. This important hormone is responsible for setting your sleep-wake cycle. If you are constantly being exposed to light, your body secretes less of it and instead will secrete cortisol.
2. Pre bed routine
- Practicing deep breathing
- Connecting with your spouse
- Power down all electronics before bed. (Two hours is more ideal but I know I will receive a ton of hate mail already by taking a smartphone out of your hand) Winding down before actually falling asleep is key to a good nights sleep. An hour before bed, try to do things that you enjoy but that also allow you to relax. This could be one or a combination of the following;
- Spending time with children, or
- Playing with pets
- Food preparation
- A hot bath or shower
- Writing in a journal
3. Sleep Hygiene
Treat your bedroom like a temple.
- Keep it clean and uncluttered
- Electromagnetic fields– Eliminate all EMF from the bedroom and avoid sleeping next to an electrical outlet, especially at head level.
- Clothing- It’s best to wear very light clothing or no clothing at all
- Keep it Cool – The bedroom should be the coolest room in the house.
- Make the bedroom DARK -use blackout-blinds if necessary and block out or cover lights on alarm clocks.
4. Wake up to natural light
Not all of us can wake up to sunshine, but if you can’t there are lights you can purchase to mimic the suns affect. However, I am sure many of you wake up and immediately go online, in which the blue light form your devices are now a good thing. However, I’ll save my thoughts on the act of plugging in first thing in the morning for another time.
Avoid a large carbohydrate meal right before bed as the glucose will cause a surge in energy and may wake you mid sleep. Instead, finish eating your (well balanced) meal a few hours before bed so blood glucose levels out.
- Water and other liquids are necessary for hydration but if you continually wake up in the middle of the night to go pee, it is best to stop drinking water earlier in the day.
- Depending on how you metabolize caffeine it can affect sleep quality. Some of us are slow metabolizers of caffeine and should only consume it in the mornings, if at all. (I can sense more hate mail coming my way). On the other hand, some of us can tolerate up to three cups of coffee per day without compromising sleep.
It is best to exercise in the first half of the day as it allows us to spend more time in stage 3 and 4 sleep. (Stage 1 & 2 are the rapid eye movement or REM phase, while stage 3 and 4 is when the our body repairs.)
I hope this gave you a little more insight into the importance of sleep and why even though I am a strength & conditioning coach and nutritionist I talk about sleep as that important third pillar (of four) for optimal health. Don’t wait another night; make sleep a priority and treat your pre-bed routine like gold, or as you would a meeting with your boss, or picking up your kids from school.
Do you have friends and/or family that can benefit from the information you just read? Don’t be shy, sharing is caring. Trust me, helping others optimize their life feels amazing!