Friday, July 30, 2010

Why Sleep is a BIG Deal

How much and well do you sleep? If you seem to think you can function on 4-6 hours and not have insomnia and think it's a non-issue... Think again.


Remember the line, "killing me softly"?? Yeah you could be doing it to yourself.


Here are some disturbing facts that you should be aware of: 

Sleep deprivation is the quicker route to death than starvation.

There is a direct correlation between the diminished hours of sleep and body mass index - You know the how fat are you index.

Sleep debt builds up on you, contributing to carbohydrate intolerance and fat gain over time.

Before the invention of the incandescent light bulb, we averaged about 12 hours of nightly sleep. 

Lack of mental clarity, weakened immune system and less than desirable physical performance are also characteristics of the sleep deprived.

Glucose tolerance and endocrine function are negatively affected by insufficient sleep quality and being awake at the wrong hours of the night.

Coffee and related stimulants contribute to later bedtimes and can corrupt cortisol, adrenaline, and inflammatory markers. Extended sleep deprivation decreases leptin secretion at night, not cool seems how leptin is a good guy in the fat loss battle. And nobody wants a cortisol belly.

A study in adolescents not only showed an 80% rise in the odds of obesity for each hour of sleep lost each night, but also a 3% drop in daytime physical activity for each hour of sleep disturbance.

Sleep disturbances in part related to higher nighttime epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine concentrations, have been found in individuals who exercise hard (as in weights and cardio). Similarly, a doubling of training load has been reported to induce insomnia and depression as part of the overtraining syndrome. So those of you who are ramping up training efforts may want to get more total hours on the pillow to compensate.


These following tips may be especially helpful to men, women and even children who appear to get less sleep.


1. Get in a 9-12 hour night at least once or twice weekly.

2. Nap to compensate for lost sleep. Whether it be a full sleep cycle of 90 minutes or a 20 minute power nap.

3. Meditate for 20 minutes during the day; winding down with breathing techniques and progressive relaxation before bedtime is especially helpful.

4. Avoid falling asleep with the tv on… you know what just avoid tv altogether, the mindless programming is really unnecessary in your development as a greater person.

5. Avoid stimulants 5 hours before bedtime, in other words an evening coffee or tea doesn't contribute to a good night's sleep. Neither does a depressant such as alcohol, sure that glass of wine may help you to fall asleep initially; but the rebound effect after metabolizing depressants can result in a second wind at 3:00AM.

6. Get into a bedtime routine. Do those mundane tasks that put you into an active meditative state, fold the laundry, wash the dishes, read a book that won't allow you to go beyond half an hour, take a warm bath... you get the idea. You might be surprised how a small series of behaviors, done every night, creates a habit that prepares the mind for shutdown mode.

7. Have a small late night snack like I use to and have butter, natural peanut butter and jam or honey on multi-grain bread with a glass of whole chocolate milk. I am kidding. Don't be tempted by late evening carbohydrate/ gluten induced coma to get to sleep.

8. If you live in a noisy area, try subtle white noise at night to drown out distracting or startling noises. Sounds of water trickling or babbling brooks fountains can help ground most restless souls. I personally listen to either classical musical or a hypnosis/ meditation audiotrack to talk me down to a relaxed state.

9. If you do wake up like I have a history of doing, around 4:00 AM, try 20 minutes of breathing meditation before sleep. This elevates melatonin levels by 300% naturally within the body's own secretion pathways without supplementation.

10. If your mind races and mulls over the events of the day or what all you need to tomorrow. Do 1 or all of these 3 mind clearing activities. 1) Journal and/or reflect on the day's happenings and find the positive occurrences as well as the things we need to work on. 2) If you are experiencing a creative thoughts flow as your mind settles, by all means write these great ideas down. 3) Write out what you are to do tomorrow.

Bonus. If you don't need to function within society norms such as an 8-5 job but have projects to work on, feel you can run on a couple hours of sleep but multiple siestas per day and want to live as Ben Franklin did, of sorts; may I suggest polyphasic sleep. Google it. Warning: Not suitable or practical for most people.

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