The Sweet Honey of Sleep and Not Dying Early
The reasons we can't sleep at night are usually the same reasons we don't truly live during the day.
Sleep research has been painfully scant through the last century. Outside of the “What Happens When We Sleep” physiology basics we learn in middle school, deeper knowledge about sleep is pretty sparse. I talk alot about sleep and recovery. Maybe because I have always been someone who requires more sleep than most. I try for eight to nine hours a night, happening usually in two passes throughout the day. During difficult periods of my life or intense training, I need ten hours. Most folks think seven hours seems to be enough but science shows more sleep is required for good health.
One scientist is changing the research we do on sleep."The average American adult during the workweek is sleeping about 6.75 hours a night," Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, told Mic Network. "In 1910, the average adult was getting 8.25 hours of sleep a night. That's a demonstrable reduction in something that evolution has spent millions of years putting in place, and it comes with real consequences." And these consequences are very serious. In fact, the harms of NOT sleeping outweigh the benefits of it. But just to warn you, we’ve heard the benefits of more sleep for years and adults are still not drawing boundaries around their time and body to achieve it. No fret, I’ll give you some pointers about how to make it right between you and your sweet subconscious.
Without sleep, a toxic protein called Beta-amyloid builds up in the brain. The sticky kind of substance build up has been recently linked to Alzheimer's, dementia and some cancers.
There are some major downsides to getting only seven hours or less of sleep a night. Dr. Walker links shorter sleep to a shorter life. A lack of sleep is extremely damaging to the immune system, cardiovascular system, metabolic system and the brain. When we sleep, all of these systems go into a sort of reset. The are repaired and refreshed getting ready to do their job for the next day. This reboot needs a fair amount of time to work, especially if our work is physically, mentally or emotionally demanding. Dr.Walker has found that wakefulness is akin to low level brain damage. This is why we are impaired to the point of legally drunk after 20 hours of wakefulness.
Without sleep, a toxic protein called Beta-amyloid builds up in the brain. The sticky kind of substance build up has been recently linked to Alzheimer's, dementia and some cancers. It also impairs the ability of the brain to make new memories - which is why tired moms and dads probably can’t remember simple commitments or details about the day. The hard drive is just full of information that needs to be processes and therefore can’t fit new stuff in.
Hormonally, a lack of sleep is extremely harmful. A tired brain and adrenals releases a stress hormone that has a negative effect on the cardiovascular system. This has an effect on the metabolism. Tiredness makes you eat more. You also make worse choices about what you do eat (remember that 2am double burger?). Then, when the workout comes and it’s time to burn fat, a fatigued system burns lean tissue instead. That means you are actually losing muscle when you are over tired. Another fun fact is that less sleep lowers testosterone in a man, hormonally ageing him to a peer that is 10 years older. A lack of sleep is so dangerous that the world health organization had declared shift work as a carcinogen. Although keep in mind that shift workers have a higher tendency to smoke, drink and get less sleep - all cancer linked behaviors.
So let’s talk about the benefits of getting a full 8 hours regularly. Well, not dying early, less Alzheimer's and making memories should definitely be some that tickle your fancy. Your performance and nutrition will improve greatly with a full eight hours of rest. You will lose fat instead of lean body mass, make better nutritional choices. During your workout, you will have the energy to push hard enough to make a real difference in your conditioning. Improved productivity, mood and personal relationships are definite pluses to sleeping well.
More sleep is literally the easiest way to improve your life.
Athletes and weekend warriors may want to think about getting more sleep. The average person needs eight to nine hours of sleep a night. Teens, those that are ill and highly competitive athletes need more than a measly nine hours. In order to repair and reboot all of the system proberly pro/amature athletes that train more than 10 hours a week sleep about 10 hours a day. Roger Federer and LeBron James sleep for an average of 12 hours a night, while Usain Bolt, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Steve Nash get up to 10 hours a night. Federer has said, “If I don’t sleep 11 to 12 hours per day, it’s not right.” Sleep has the same positive effect cognitively. NASA found that even naps as short as 26 minutes improved mission task performance by 34% and saw a 16% increase in median reaction time. So if you are at work and feel that crash coming, have some self respect, some respect for you job and take a nap. If anyone has an issue with it, you can show them studies from NASA about sleep and productivity, how hopefully show then your increased productivity post nap. Numbers don’t lie.
Also thought exercise and nutrition are important, sleep may be the basis for a healthy life. Face it, you can avoid working out and eat like crap but no one can fight sleep for that long. Fight sleep and you get grouchy, stupid, dead or fat.
Pay VERY close attention to what you do in the two hours leading up to bed time.
My time in the military made me an expert napper. In Special Operations, we were encouraged to take naps whenever we had 20 minutes to spare. The fact is, just closing your eyes and zoning off, even if not quite sleeping, is still restful and restorative. As far as longer naps, only partake if you can nap regularly, like if you are able to schedule a time to slip away for an hour or two everyday, then do it consistently. If you have trouble falling asleep at night or have a very irregular schedule, don’t take long naps.
Drugs and alcohol a good sleep does it not make. Sedatives are not real sleep and don’t let the brain do all the repairing that it needs in order to function correctly. Instead stop drinking caffeine after 2 or 3pm and get on a regular sleep schedule, varying only by an hour or two on the weekends.
Pay VERY close attention to what you do in the two hours leading up to bed time. You should have dim lamps on at night. Having grown up in a house with can lights installed overhead, I know how subconsciously overwhelming bright light can be late at night. We live in a darkness depraved society. Cut out screen use and bright light during these wind down hours. In this two hour window, don't eat too much, eat too little or workout too much. Your core temperature takes about 2 hours to completely down regulate after a hard workout - and hot bodies don’t sleep well. Food digestion is also something that heats the body and keeps it awake.
Face it, you can avoid working out and eat like crap but no one can fight sleep for that long. Fight sleep and you get grouchy, stupid, dead or fat.
More sleep is literally the easiest way to improve your life. I know sometime we have times in our lives where we just aren't sleeping enough - caring for infants, fighting for a promotion, founding a new business and times of great greif are a few examples. But if your disturbed sleep is going on for for than six months, you really need a reality check. See an appropriate professional and arm yourself with some strategies to ease your emotions or set boundaries. Your productivity and mood will probably improve if you prioritize sleep. You body composition and athleticism certainly will.