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The Importance of Sleep

The Importance of Sleep

Is Sleep the Magic Pill?

Imagine the ultimate enhancement one can add into their performance program, a tweak that can enhance recovery, increase cognitive function, build muscle, improve energy levels, and regulate moods. Best of all this enhancement is free! This powerful tweak is sleep.

According to the American Sleep Association over 35% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep daily, and 50-70 million have a sleep disorder. With sleep having so many benefits, we are challenged to reverse these trends. In general everyone is aware that good sleep is a necessity, so why then the discouraging numbers?

Sleep Is A Skill

Optimizing sleep is no different than hitting free throws, one must practice to enhance their sleep. Just as you cannot magically hit the perfect fade shot in golf, you must practice enhancing your sleep daily. In order to enhance your sleep a brief understanding of your bodies sleep cycles is needed. During sleep, we pass through five cycles that can be categorized into three.

Sleep cycle one is referred as the "light sleep" cycle. This cycle occurs within 90-120 minutes of sleep. The second cycle is categorized as the REM (rapid eye movement), this cycle is where the biggest brain enhancements occur. During the REM cycle our brain organizes the stimulus through our day, to enhance your memory. The last cycle is referred to as the deep sleep cycle. During this cycle our body releases growth hormone and testosterone to repair our bodies tissue (muscle, fascia, tendons, ligaments) from the work we performed during the day with a goal of rejuvenation for the next. Your body then recycles through again depending on duration of sleep up to three to five times.

How Much Sleep Is Needed

Discovering how much sleep you need is always  individualized. The amount of strain you put on your body physically and emotionally that day and previous days will determine your optimal number as well as your age. As with anything though we can provide basic guidelines from like trends of individuals. The American Sleep Association recommends based on age. Infants need up to 16 hours, teenagers up to 9, and the average adult 7-8 hours.

What is the circadian rhythm?
The interesting challenge with sleep is that it is more than just duration. Your body craves homeostasis, a predictable balance in life. From our ancestral days our sleep patterns were based on day and night time. When night fall arrived there were no artificial lights, if light was needed it came in the form of fire. Humans thus became efficient in accomplishing working desires within day time, and fell asleep with dark. This created the circadian rhythms, our bodies systems syncing to the 24 hour cycle of day versus night. Circadian rhythms affect hormonal release, body temperature regulation, and other functions of the human body. Abnormal rhythms have been associated with insomnia, depression, obesity, and seasonal affective disorder.

5 Sleep Rituals (Strategies)

  • Power Naps: Adding a 20m nap can enhance energy, mental capacity, and reduce stress. The goal of a power nap is to go through light and REM cycle. 
  • Technology Pause: Remove all electronic devices, television screens, phones, tablets, any device emitting a  blue light which can excite your brain and disrupt sleep.
  • Breath: Mindful breathing for a couple of minutes prior to bed can shift our state from a "fight or flight" mode to a calmer - more restful state. Make sure to find a quiet spot where you can sit and practice breathing a little deeper and slower than usual. Challenge yourself to create a pace to your breath 6s inhale: 4s hold: 10s exhale.
  • Meditate: A simple by powerful meditation is to focus on regenerating a feeling of love or appreciation for someone, something, a special place, or an event in your life. This quick meditation is to designed to create coherence (balance between your thoughts, feelings, and rhythms of your heart) which can create the proper environment for an efficient night of sleep.
  • Add Sleep Enhancers: Utilizing scents that increase positive feelings such as lavender, valerian, and jasmine can promote a restful night of sleep. Also, if recommended by your physician add a melatonin supplement.


Monitor Sleep

There are many devices on the market such as FitBit that looks to measure the quality of your sleep, and can give you a general awareness of your sleep state. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measurement devices takes the basics of a FitBit and enhance the information you receive. HRV devices such as FirstBeat, look to evaluate the rhythms of your heart rate  beat to beat to evaluate the relative balance of your Autonomic Nervous System. The ANS controls up to 90% of our bodies systems, and can immediately decipher is your sleep quality is optimal. 

For more information of sleep strategies or to register for a 3 day HRV study contact Jay Morgan at jay@dynamichealthfitness.com

 

References:

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming your life one night at a time; Author Arianna Huffington

ASA; sleepassociation.org