It doesn’t take a convincing argument to know that we generally feel better when we get a good night’s rest. When trying to improve fitness for sport or for general weight loss, we know we have to eat right to feel and look better. We also know we need to become more active to improve fitness or lose weight. But we often overlook sleep and the importance of getting good quality Zzzzz’s..
Sleep plays a role in Weight loss and Performance!
A few things happen when we are lacking sleep. We will generally make less sound decisions when we are sleep deprived because the reward centers in our brain are amped up and looking for quick satisfaction (aka sugary foods). We typically lose clarity in our decision making when we don’t have enough sleep! It really only takes a few days of lack of sleep for the body’s ability to process insulin drops. If we don’t process insulin well we are more likely to store body fat. (This is also called becoming insulin resistant
You really only need to be sleep deprived once or twice to know that you will not be at your physical peak the day after a restless night. Super important things like muscle repair, speed, agility, reaction time, and also lack the ability to think clearly during activity. It is also known to have a higher average heart rate and decreased strength and endurance when performing in the gym or on the field. So…sleep like a baby, perform like an animal!
What happens when we sleep?
Plenty of good things happen when are off in lala land counting sheep. Our bodies are churning through water as we breathe, sweat, dream, digest, and repair our muscles all throughout the night! This is typically why we weigh our lightest when we first wake up. Make sure to drink some water before bed and upon waking for the body to function at a higher level.
Two hormones to know about when it comes to sleep and appetite, Leptin and Ghrelin. When we get 7-8 or more hours of sleep, Our Leptin levels go up, and our ghrelin levels go down. Leptin is a hormone that decreases appetite. When leptin is up, we feel fuller. On the contrary, ghrelin is a hormone that can stimulate appetite, we often refer to this hormone as the “hunger hormone” because it’s thought to be responsible for the feeling of hunger. So when we are sleep deprived, the opposite becomes true and in turn makes us rarely feeling full and hungry all the time. This leads to craving higher caloric and less nutrient dense foods.
All this is important, but I would say the most important stage of sleep from a performance standpoint are benefits we get from our deep stages of sleep that are not REM related or dream related. This is our NON-REM deep wave sleep cycle. The pituitary gland releases growth hormone and our blood and muscles become oxygenated and blood flow stimulates muscle tissue repair. This is why some of the best athletes also spend the most time in bed!
All of that is super great… but why can’t I sleep? And how much sleep do I really need?
Why am I still restless at night staring at my ceiling dreading what time I need to wake up in the morning? This can boil down to a few things.
Anxiety. Find yourself in a constant state of worry as soon as your head hits the pillow? I’ve found a few things to help:
- Pull out your calendar, whether that’s on your phone (watch the lights!) or written down. Write out everything you’re thinking about and identify the three major tasks you need to accomplish for the next day. Have extra random thoughts floating around your head at night? Write that down too. Get it all out. Then go to bed!
- That might not be enough! We need to downregulate our nervous system if we are feeling like a pent up ball of nervous energy. Look up techniques such as Box Breathing or meditation or any other type of mindfulness exercise. This can help you calm your mind and teach your body to relax.
Routine. Bedtime routines are for more than just children! It’s known that certain activities (brush your teeth, read a book, prayer, stretching before bed, etc) and times of day can prompt our brains to start producing melatonin as the body thinks it’s getting closer and closer to bedtime. It’s called a routine for a reason, try to keep it similar every time!
SCREENS! They’re the downfall of modern technology… We have our phones, tvs, tablets and watches so easily accessible and close to our beds. It’s addicting to look at. Often we just mindlessly scroll on instagram looking at what our favorite crossfit athlete did for their workout today or maybe we found a cute puppy video that took us down a never-ending rabbit hole..and oh look it’s now 1:00am.
TVs, phones, and modern watches all emit Blue-Light. What this light does is trigger our brains to thinking it’s daytime and will generally just stimulate our minds. This in turn makes it harder to shut off our brains as we are supposed to be winding them down. Get off the screens and go to bed!
IN SUMMARY: Here’s a couple sleep tips.
- Keep it cold. You can actually raise your body’s natural testosterone by sleeping in an environment between 64-68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Go to bed and wake up with a glass of water. Your brain will thank you for it.
- Keep your night routine the same.
- Keep a pen and paper next to your bed for anxiety attacks and keep your calendar updated!
- Avoid Blue Light. Where Blue Blocking glasses if necessary. to help keep your brain less wired at night.
- Breathe! Mindfulness, Breathing exercises, Prayer are all good tools in the toolbox that can help you wind down at night.
- Supplement with Magnesium, your body will use this to repair whatever is lacking during your sleep. This will also give you deeper sleep once you are knocked out!
- Explore CBD Tinctures if you don’t mind spending a little extra $$… This will wake you up feeling like a whole new person.