What if there was a magic pill for feeling like a million bucks? Would you take it?
(Show of hands).
Womp, womp. Alright, so maybe NOT what you wanted to hear, but there’s no getting around it: Sleep is CRUCIAL for feeling and performing your BEST (energy, strength/work capacity gains inside the gym, productivity outside the gym, enjoyment of life to the fullest, optimal digestion and gut health, clear thinking and cognitive functioning, and more).
When we DON’T get enough sleep, we suffer multiple side-effects (as you may attest to), including:
- Inflammation in the body
- Decreased immunity (increased risk for illness)
- Difficulty with weight loss or weight gain goals
- Hormonal shifts
- Blood sugar dysregulation & sugar-handling problems (Just one night of missed or inadequate sleep is sufficient to make you as insulin resistant as a type 2 diabetic)
- Decreased recovery
- Heart disease/Cardiac issues
- Altered brain power
- Premature aging
- Prolonged high cortisol levels (stress hormone)
- Adrenal fatigue
…Just to name a few.
Ok, ok, ok. So you KNOW sleep is good for you—but, in actuality, you are a busy bee, and quite frankly, making time for sleep to happen just doesn’t fit in your schedule.
How much sleep do you really need?
According to the American Journal of Epidemiology
, nearly one-third of US adults get less than 6 hours of sleep per 24 hour period. Moreover, sleep durations that are longer or shorter than 7–8 hours in a 24-hour period are associated with higher probability for cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors, depression, automobile and workplace accidents, learning and memory problems, and excess mortality.
7 to, upwards of 9, hours is the optimal
amount of sleep most adults need in order to experience the full benefits, including:
- Optimized function and performance in the gym
- Muscle-recovery from the gym
- Realization of body composition goals
- Appetite control
- Hormone regulation (i.e. cortisol levels)
- Enhanced metabolism
- More energy
- And more….
Why is this?
Sleep is closely interweaved into your natural circadian rhythms (your body’s inner-clock). This inscription allows you to live comfortably in your environment of both dark and light. Since your body’s genes are set to this dark and light pattern, sleep needs to have a required rhythm to be healthy. Just like your heart, body temperature, and metabolic process have circadian rhythms, so do your sleep needs.
Normal energy rhythm should rise and fall throughout the day – mimicking the same cycles of the sun. Departure from this pattern, be it mid-morning or afternoon dips in energy, staying up too late or waking up too early (without enough sleep in your system) are abnormal
And while you may be able to run off of short amounts of sleep for a short time…these abnormalities WILL catch up with you.
Sleep, physiologically, promotes recovery—like a battery that re-charges a dead phone, sleep recharges your body to give it a go the next day. Without adequate, quality sleep one cannot hope to be optimally recovered. The base recommendation for sleep hygiene is as follows:
1) Go to be bed and rise at approximately the same times EVERYDAY
2) Move! (During the day) Exercise helps release energy during the day, and promotes better sleep at night.
3) Unplug electronics at least one hour at least before bed; read, write, meal-prep (turn the stimulus off). [Melatonin
, the hormone that induces drowsiness, is produced on darkness. Blue light
inhibits production of the hormone so no strong light bulbs, TV, laptops in bed, etc.]
4) Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption; and eat lighter the later it draws to bedtime (Going to bed on a full stomach is uncomfortable)
5) If you have a tough time winding down, try sipping on some chamomile or "sleepy time" warm tea or slurping up some homemade bone broth
6) Ensure 7-9 hours of UNINTERRUPTED
7) Create a cool (mid-60s) ambient environment (for optimal metabolic function during sleep)
8) Blackout all lights – windows, hallway, computers and even the tiny charging dots on your devices
9) Listen to soft white- or rhythmic-noises
10) Consider investing in a sunlamp
—a natural "alarm" clock for promoting your optimal circadian rhythms
Still have a hard time believing you really need that much
sleep-after all, you are productive right?
Give it a try—even for a week. Tucking in a little earlier or rising a little later.
Before your new (earlier) bedtime, remind yourself how it will feel to wake up refreshed, without an alarm, getting ready for work without a rush, with time to make breakfast and start your day off calm and collected.