Colin Allan is a professional rugby-player-turned-PT and performance coach, with a specialist interest in hyper-tailored training and nutrition. In this blog post, Colin talks about the importance of getting enough zzz's.....
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If we are going to subject our bodies and minds to any sort of stress be it physical or mental, sufficient recovery is fundamental to our wellbeing and performance.
Until recently sleep hasn't received the attention it should, given it is considered the cornerstone of wellbeing, and that a poor nights sleep impacts on our hormones, mood and food choices. We forget that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture but we repeatedly torture ourselves by compromising both our quality and quantity of sleep and when the New Years resolutions are made I have never heard someone say they want to sleep better.
Perhaps it's because not enough of us fully understand what sleep does and why it is so very important. In layman's terms it is a restorative period when the body builds and repairs the immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems. Sleep impacts on most bodily functions and also facilitates knowledge retention and learning.
Science has shown that sleeping 6hrs a night for 2 weeks reduces our cognitive ability to the same level as someone who has been awake for 24hrs. At this point our perceptual acuity, is equal to that of someone who has a blood alcohol reading of 0.08, almost twice that which will get you arrested for drink driving. To compound matters we are also three times as likely to fall ill if exposed to a virus when tired. So for optimal function be it sporting or at work, we need optimal sleep. When we sleep we continuously pass through 5 different depths of sleep. These 5 stages form a single sleep cycle and each cycle requires approximately 90mins. We need 4-5cycles or 7.5-8.5hrs sleep.
Note that after 5 glasses of wine you never enter a phase of sleep deep enough to recover. For this reason it is very important to limit our alcohol consumption if we want to sleep well as it increases the number of interruptions during the night.
Although people stress if they wake during the night, sleep cycles don’t have to be continuous, historically man has always woken in the middle of the night to relieve himself and check the camp fire, we do however want to minimise the number of interruptions.
Our need to sleep is controlled by sleep pressure, or how long we have been awake and our circadian rhythm or body clock. So being consistent with our rising and bed time is key. Also the hormone Melatonin is very important in controlling our physiology, it increases with our exposure to darkness and nowadays is heavily impacted by artificial lighting, TV and our evening use of mobile devices, in particular the 'Blue Light' that is emitted.
To help minimise this dimly light your home in the evening and avoid the TV for an hour before bed. Switch off mobile devices too and consider installing anti blue light software or screen filters on your mobile devices. Our quality and quantity of sleep has a subsequent knock on effect on our hormones, impacting on the hunger hormone grehlin, insulin, the stress hormone cortisol, and testosterone.
Raised grehlin increases hunger, reduced leptin reduces satiation meaning we will overeat and our response to seratonin changes resulting in us seeking out sugary carbs which if we don't burn them up immediately will likely be stored as fat. If we think how successive nights of disrupted sleep can affect us, we wake up feeling tired and reach for a coffee accompanied by sugary foods for immediate energy. This results in a subsequent insulin spike and crash. We reach out for more coffee and sugar. We overeat at lunchtime and need another coffee to keep our eyes open. We arrive home wired and have some wine which acts as a sedative and helps us fall asleep.
The alcohol wears off and we awake in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep for an hour or so. Eventually we fall back to sleep and we wake in the morning, feeling even more tired than the day before we reach for the coffee and so on. It's easy to see why this spiral of sleep deprivation, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol not only leads to poor sleep and leaves us feeling burnt out but also increases the risk of CHD, and Type2 diabetes.
Limiting caffeine and alcohol (and these specific foods) is key to high quality restorative sleep. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise. It's an adage I grew up with and it's scientifically proven, at least with regards to your health and wisdom, as for your wealth that's entirely up to you....
5 Take Homes For Good Sleep Hygiene
- Reduce caffeine & alcohol and avoid fluids late at night.
- Black out your bedroom and remove artificial light from electronic devices.
- Keep an uncluttered bedroom at a cool ambient temperature.
- Be consistent with your routine both going to bed and time of rising.
- Switch off the mobile or iPad an hour before bed and give your mind some down time.
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ref: Norman Human Sleep: An Overview. Ch 2 Sleep Medicine Methodoloyg & Nomenclature. Carskadon & Dement, 2011 Sleep: A Very Short Introduction. Steven W. Lockley Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. Journal Clinical Endocrine Metabolism. 2011 March, 96(3): J. Gooley et. al.
Whilst Enertor has over 18 years Orthotics experience, our blog content is provided for informational purposes only and it is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical advice. Enertor advises anyone with an injury to seek their own medical advice – and do not make any health or medical related decisions based solely on information found on this site