I recently read a great book “Wired To Eat” by Robb Wolf, and in this book he outlined the importance of sleep. The way that he outlined it was so well thought out and detailed that I wanted to share it with the CrossFit Milford Community.
You always hear the coaches instructing everyone to get good sleep. When I am working with people, whether they are athletes or just someone looking to get fit, my first question to them is always “how well do you sleep.” Which is then followed up by “ how is your nutrition.” This two factors are what I call pillars. Meaning, these two, along with movement and genetics are what everything else can be built upon.
The hardest factor with our society is that we have this, I’ll sleep when I’m dead attitude. We find it as a badge of honor to discuss how little sleep we are getting due to always grinding. However, what is the long term affect of that? Not only on your body, but your performance with your craft? It is actually the opposite, where the better sleep you get, the better you will be at your craft the next day. Sleep is the number one factor in growth, regeneration, and improved brain functionality.
So, let’s look at a few things that occur to your body with a few nights of poor sleep;
- Impairs insulin sensitivity. Constantly having poor night sleeps can make one as insulin resistant as a type 2 diabetic.
- Increases gut permeability. Increased intestinal permeability itself imparts insulin sensitivity while increasing our reactivity to certain foods.
- Increases systemic inflammation.
- Impairs immune function.
- Alters anabolic hormones.
- Causes Cravings.
- Cognitive Impairment.
(to read into this more get the book Wired to Eat)
Think about the above seven lists. The startling factor is that these occur almost immediately with poor sleep. The good news is that this can be turned around with good sleep, exercise and good food.
So, the next question is how can we get better sleep in a natural way. I say natural way because using Alcohol or pharmaceuticals doesn’t put you in a sleep so to say. Those methods will knock you out, but your bodies regenerative processes that occur in a natural sleep will not occur.
Let’s look at a few areas on how to improve sleep;
- Get more daytime sun to help establish a normal circadian rhythm.
- Evenings need to be dark and cool. Dim your lights and block out all the “blue” light from electronics.
- Limit all evening technology.
- Sleep in a cool room.
- Sleep in a dark room.
- Keep a journal. If your brain races at night then start writing all these thoughts down in a journal to get them off your brain and be able to relax.
- Get a good mattress.
- Get a consistent schedule and look to stick to it.
(you can read more about these in the book Wired to eat)
Sure, I understand that sometimes life happens. Kids are sick, dog wakes you up, stresses at work are keeping you awake etc.. However, the key is to know what can happen to your body if you sustain these habits over time. The keys to anything come down to understanding. Once you know what you are doing then the ability to work on a new habit to fix it is easier.