Sleep. It’s always one of those things I don’t realize affects me so strongly until I don’t have enough of it or it is disrupted. Lately I’ve been able to sleep more and most importantly, I’m sleeping solid throughout the night. I’ve been able to have a more consistent schedule that has allowed me to go to bed and rise at the same time during the week.
Sleep has been a constant challenge for me throughout my life; whether battling with insomnia or my work schedule, being up early and late to bed, I’ve witnessed first hand the negative side affects of sleep deprivation.
We all want to be healthy. We work hard in the gym and we pay attention to our food but how often do we jeopardize our sleep? Lets take a look at sleep from an overall health perspective:
Research indicates that people who get less sleep—six or fewer hours a night—have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more. Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. If we think about it even further, we ask a lot of our bodies in the gym, causing inflammation through movement; if we aren’t sleeping, we aren’t recovering.
Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. (They shed similar amounts of total weight regardless of sleep.)
Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep. Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain; when you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite. I’m definitely out of control, regarding my nutrition, when I haven’t slept well. It is very noticeable to me when I am tired; I will eat just about anything and constantly eat.
Let’s take a look at sleep from an athletic point of view. If you’re an athlete, there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep. I remember listening to a large majority of the Games athletes being interviewed last year on the web. When they were asked what their secret was or what they changed in their routine, they said, “Sleep, I sleep more!”
A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina. The results of this study reflect previous findings seen in tennis players and swimmers.
Testosterone levels and growth hormone levels elevate during sleep. This is part of the bodies physical repair system. These hormones assist in recovery and strength & fitness gains. These hormones release after being asleep for about 30 minutes. The hormone levels elevate every time you go thru a certain phase of your sleep cycle. The longer you sleep, the more cycles you go thru, the more of these recovery promoting hormones pumping thru your body. Even getting a 30+minute nap is a big bonus because now, instead of getting this hormone advantage one time a day, a nap makes it twice in a day! (Did you get your HGH today?) With my new awesome sleep schedule, I am happy to say I’ve gained personal records in my Back and Front Squat, my Split Jerk and my Clean. I’m a believer!
So now that you realize how important it is to prioritize your sleep, let’s review a few things that will help you improve the quality of sleep you are getting.
Even though a nightcap may help you relax and fall asleep faster, it’ll make the second half of your sleep cycle restless and unsatisfying. Alcohol decreases deep sleep and increases arousals from sleep. If you like a glass of wine in the evening, have it with dinner—around 6 p.m. rather than 11 p.m.—and drink in moderation, so it’ll wear off by the time you lie down.
2. Hot Soak
Surprisingly, a hot bath might make it harder for you to drift off: Doing anything that raises your body temperature too close to bedtime may actually hinder you from falling asleep, because your body needs to cool to a certain temperature in order to reach a sound slumber.
3. Tech-Free ZZZ’s
Typing in bed can wind you up. So when you do unplug, it will be harder to fall asleep. It’s possible that even the vibration of your phone could disturb sleep if you are a person cued to hear or respond to it.
Disconnect an hour before bed, turn your smartphone off, and put any gadgets on an out-of-reach dresser or in another room so you won’t be able to grab it if you get the late-night urge. Also, invest in a real alarm clock (using your cell will only give you another excuse to keep it close)—and get ready to wake up feeling so refreshed that you won’t even need to press snooze.
4. Stretch for sleep
Getting in a little gentle, restorative stretch/yoga before you hit the sack can help put your mind at ease, steady your breath, and reduce muscle tension without revving up your heart. I’ve found it very beneficially to foam roll before bed, alleviating the days tension.
5. No Brainer…No Caffeine in the P.M.
We all know caffeine is a stimulus that helps keep us awake, but what about that afternoon sipper? Check the labels on your favorite midday drinks—any that boast energy-boosting benefits are likely culprits. Then, if possible, stop sipping them by 2 p.m., so there’s time for their effects to wear off. Naturally, coffee drinks pack a real wallop, so stay away from them after lunch.