Tuesday, 27 January 2015

You are getting sleepy

We live in a fast paced world, it only seems to be getting faster and our time is constantly strained or misused. We have jobs, family, hobbies and whatever season of a TV show we are currently watching. We take things for granted, simple things really. These simple things play a massive role in our lives, more than we realise. To be honest, if we get a lot of the basics done right the bigger picture becomes easier to manage. One of those basics is sleep. Seems simple, but getting good quality sleep seems to be a forgotten art form for many.

Does sleep matter that much? Whilst that is a general question the answer is obvious, yes it is. But why is does it matter has been researched for quite some time. Now you may have said “our body heals and restores”, you would be right. There are other reasons though, we heal when we are awake as well, but it seems we restore best when we are asleep. This may have to do with the fact that we are asleep and it seems like we heal and rest up since we are not consciously aware of time. We also seem to consolidate memory and begin to defrag the hard drive. Recently, scientists discovered that during sleep, our brain is very active in removing waste created by cells when we are awake. That is a big deal, but it is obvious we need sleep. Shift workers will often have an increased risk of various diseases due to disturbed sleep cycle. Sleep deprivation in rats leads to them dying. Now we are not rats, but sleep deprivation in humans can have some disastrous effects. Even with only a few hours less of sleep over a few days you may have found yourself craving sugar. That’s because of the hormone Leptin, it is affected by sleep duration and cannot signal properly that you are full. To make matters worse a peptide secreted in the stomach called Ghrelin signals an increase in appetite. That alone could be bad for those trying to lower their calorie intake.
So what can you do to improve sleep? Lay off the stimulants, energy drinks, coffee etc. I try not to drink coffee after 2pm and if I do I go decaf or have a fair bit of water to try and flush it. To add to the consumption theme try not to eat too much before going to bed it can make you uncomfortable and the thermic effect of digestion of food doesn’t help either. Alcohol has been shown to upset our sleep cycle so try to moderate your alcohol intake.

When you go to bed do you sleep on a bed of nails? Probably not, but it is important to have an environment that is conducive to you sleeping. The temperature should comfortably cool 60-75F and limit distractions in your room. Electronics in your room are a big distraction and have been shown to interfere with your sleep. So turn off the TV, put down the phone or leave them out in the lounge.
Try and get your exercise done earlier rather than later. I have a rule to try and not train after 9pm. For those of you that are morning people you may get your exercise out of the way no problem. It is important to try and be consistent with when you go to sleep and when you wake up. Try to keep it within 30mins or so of your goal sleeping and rising. Try to get to sleep before midnight. I have noticed a lowered training output if I sleep after 12pm no matter how good it is. It may be helpful to read or meditate, even a light stretch before sleeping will do wonders for your sleep quality.
But how many hours should I get? The general guidelines seem to be about 7-9 hours. How do I know if I slept well? Seems obvious, but I thought I’d measure it to find out. There are many ways to track this. I used the app Sleepbot on my phone, I put it on and then put the phone under my pillow and it tracked my motion whilst I slept as this seems to correlate with sleep quality and cycle. I personally was not a fan of having a phone under my pillow and trying to sleep. It was like my body wouldn’t go through a complete cycle when using it. I stopped using it and slept better. You may like to try a sleep log or a Fitbit or similar as they are on your wrist.

Sleep is a big part of your life, health, recovery and overall wellbeing. It is important that you get this one basic right. All of the supplements and recovery techniques cannot replace a good quality night’s sleep.

Make a comment below about what future articles you would like. I am considering creating a online course, what should I make the course about? Comment or contact me via email

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