The Importance of sleeping well

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I am a true believer in the fundamentals: training smart, training hard, and eating right. Sleeping well is another piece to this puzzle. Just as we trainers can measure the effectiveness of your nutrition by your strength gains, body fat/water bloat and energy, we can also need to measure another huge health indicator, which is your sleep. You can train with all your heart and eat the cleanest diet imaginable, but if you do not sleep well at night you will quickly unravel before our very eyes. That’s why this month’s article is dedicated to shut eye!

A few late nights or bad nights of sleep can be overcome, but chronic lack of sleep will start to affect you in a multitude of ways, throughout your body:

  1. Poor sleep will cause stress. Stress can cause poor sleep. It works both ways! It’s a potential death spiral that can cause many horrible biochemical screw-ups. Stress elevates your cortisol levels, elevated cortisol inhibits melatonin release, lack of melatonin worsens sleep quality, muscle growth hormone production is reduced, resulting in melatonin not being restored for the next night’s release. And the cycle repeats itself.
  2. Your training suffers. You’re not going to be doing your best dead lifting or rocking that training run when you are already dragging your feet. Without growth hormone to rebuild, your strength production will be reduced, along with your mood, and with that your will power will probably also go out the window. Adequate sleep allows you to tackle physical challenges over and over again, getting you to see those strength gains and the weight loss you have been working for.
  3. You’ll overeat. The more you struggle with fatigue, the higher (much higher, actually) your chances are of stuffing yourself with carbohydrate-dense calorie-rich foods to try to gain the extra energy you’re lacking. Will power will also sit at an all time low when you are feeling sorry for yourself, hung over or sleep deprived. Just a thought: No one ever put on weight because they binged on broccoli!
  4. Decision making. During sleep, your nervous system processes vital Information. Lack of sleep negatively affects both long and short-term memory and decision making. Lack of sleep also stifles creativity and increases your propensity for snap decisions, mood swings and poor temper. Yikes!
  5. Immune defense suffers. As you sleep, your immune system pumps out cytokines, which are infection-fighting antibodies within cells. Without adequate sleep your immune system cannot cope with the demand placed upon it to clean up bacteria and viruses which–sorry to say–run rife through our bodies. Mother was right when she said if you feel the hint of a cold, have a hot meal and go to bed!
  6. Heightened health risk. We have a heightened risk of cardiovascular health problems when we lose sleep. We repair blood vessels and heart cells while we sleep, aided by the slow down of cardiac output and lowered blood pressure. Long term lack of sleep induced ‘patch up work’ is going to increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. The Harvard Medical School concluded that just one bad night of sleep can elevate blood pressure for the entire next day!
  7. Higher levels of insulin. As a well as those terrible food choices you will definitely be making after a rotten night of sleep, your body will produce higher levels of insulin after you eat. That insulin will most probably have been already elevated by that morning pumpkin muffin you had, which your sleep-deprived mind couldn’t say ‘no’ to, being otherwise engaged in irritably snapping at the coffee barista and scowling at the young mother struggling with her baby in front of you…. or is that just me? Insulin will also tell your fat cells to start swelling and storing fat, and frighteningly, it’s the slow, dormant fat layers which listen to this the most.

In summary, you need those quality sleep nights to truly optimize your body’s potential. Whether you are recovering from injury, fighting a cold or on a weight-loss journey, one of the optimal things you can do is switch off the TV and get an extra hour of sleep each night. You can’t deny how invigorated you feel when your training, nutrition and sleep are all in sync! My goal is to get you there!