What’s happening everyone? How’s your week thus far? Oh, come on now it’s not that terrible I promise you, and if it is I’ll brighten your mood with some humor while I simultaneously inform you. Also, I’m very late to the party, but I saw the new Star Wars and yes, I liked it, no more needs to be said. Don’t worry no spoilers if you’re less cool than me and haven’t seen it yet (seriously get on it you’re going to have someone ruin it on you).
Getting back to the more important things of today. Who out there, wants to hit a new squat PR this year? How about drop some body fat? What about run your first half marathon? Chances are, if you’re reading this, you probably have a goal similar to this, no? Some of you, may not have a goal quite like this. Your goal could be something as easy as, I want more energy to play with my kids or to help my spouse around the homestead. There’s something that can help all of the above, its super easy, and it’s something you probably already love to do every day. If you don’t, what kind of monster are you?
Today we’re talking about sleep. None of what I’m spitting is news as I’ve mainly borrowed from the articles of respected people, Eric Cressey, Brian St. Pierre, Mike Sheridan) and sources (T-Nation and Precision Nutrition) much smarter than me., but I figure if I help one person improve then it’s worth regurgitating the information.
First off, if you didn’t know, America sucks at this sleeping thing. It’s killing us all slowly and probably is a heavy contributor to us becoming one of the unhealthiest developed countries in the world.
As recently as 2006 (the number is probably more outrageous now), a study showed, both men and women, every single age group, had an increase in the number of people reporting an average of less than 6 hours of sleep, compared to 1985
6 hours is plenty? WRONG, sorry that’s a bit harsh, but no 6 hours is not plenty. It’s not detrimental to us every once in a while, life happens, things get in the way, and no one is perfect. But a lack of sleep comes with many increased health risks, the big one being obesity. There’s some that wonder whether it’s the chicken or the egg (whether obesity leads to less sleep or less sleep leads to obesity), but it’s widely believed that less sleep as well as poor sleep quality, have a negative effect on important systems in your body that help control weight gain. If you want to think of it simply, more time awake means more time to cram kcals into your face and less time for your machine to use those kcals to rebuild and repair while you sleep.
Those that want some more nerdy information check out what things like Cortisol, Insulin, Growth Hormone and Leptin do for you in terms of weight gain/loss and overall health. I’ll give you the cliff notes, none of it is good news; you’re more stressed, your body doesn’t process insulin well (hello diabetes), you don’t recover from your workout quite as well as you should and your body doesn’t know how to tell you to stop eating.
Some of you are maybe saying to yourself, “I only get 5.5 hours of sleep during the week, but I sleep in on weekends”. That my friends, is a dangerous game to play. There are some studies that show that it’s not a terrible method, but here’s the problem. Many of you are probably “sleeping in” because you had a late night, and you still probably only slept for 5-6 hours. Especially those of us that enjoy our adult beverages, that sleep time was 100% garbage sleep, and we’ll get more into that in a minute.
Here’s a chart from Precision Nutrition with some signs that you’re lacking in the sleep category and need to level up sooner rather than later.
Here’s 3 steps to nudge you in the direction of getting a more restful sleep
1. Watch the alcohol and caffeine intake- Yes, I drink my share of both, but we have to be smart about it. Drinking coffee like it’s going out of style and/or going on a bender every other night has a host of health problems outside of impacting our sleep. Caffeine after 12 PM (some say 2, I say 12 to be safe) is going to keep that brain ticking way longer than you want it to. Alcohol needs to process 100% before you can actually get into a deep sleep, so when you’re slugging them back until 3 AM, wave bye-bye to getting any actual sleep (even if you do shut your eyes for an extended period). Keep it to 1 or 2 drinks if you’re planning on getting some good sleep that night.
2. Get into as much of a bedtime routine as you can- Not only am I talking about getting your body into a routine in terms of what time it’s going to sleep and waking up, but also what you do shortly before and shortly after. Start shutting down 30 minutes before, get the lights down (screens included). If you have something on your mind that’s going to bug you like hell until you do it, write it all down on a piece of paper, then you’ll get it out of your mind. When you wake up, don’t just lay there hitting the snooze button, get up! There’s something about “sleep inertia” or a term similar, that basically says laying back down only makes you more tired, so just get the heck up and start.
3. Go to bed earlier- Why in the heck people are into this whole, staying awake late every night even though I was tired 2 hours ago, thing is beyond me. When you are tired your body is trying to tell you something, so don’t fight it, that something is…TIME TO SLEEP! I’ve heard this on probably 10-12 different occasions in my time as a coach, many sleep experts out there believe that because of the way our bodies natural rhythm works, every hour slept before midnight is worth two after. I’m pretty sure there’s not a ton of research (or a way to measure it even) out there, but it seems to make sense, and work from my perspective at least.
There, now aren’t we all excited to get to sleep? I realize much of what I just said is a bit of scare tactics. I’m not trying to make you panic into thinking that you’re going to drop dead tomorrow if you don’t get 7-9 hours of sleep tonight. At the same time, there are long term negative consequences to sleep deprivation and besides, who the heck doesn’t like sleeping? Just because I get up early in the morning doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my Zzz’s, I just go to bed earlier on most nights. That’s what I got today guys, get some rest, then go out there and get after it!
References: The links below are to the articles that I’ve pooled the information in this post from. They did the research much better than I ever could. If you enjoyed this post and want more information on sleep, click one of the links below and thank them for making it easy to understand the information.
Mike Sheridan (via T-Nation): https://www.t-nation.com/living/tip-a-quick-guide-to-hardcore-sleeping
Eric Cressey: https://ericcressey.com/sleep-what-the-research-actually-says
Brian St. Pierre (via Precision Nutrition): https://www.precisionnutrition.com/hacking-sleep
Ryan Andrews (via Precision Nutrition): https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-sleep
Jarrod Dyke, CSCS