How many of you consider the importance of sleep in relation to fat-loss, injury prevention and recovery, lack of focus, and overall health and vitality?
According to a study published in the Lancet Medical Journal (1) chronic sleep deprivation may speed the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and memory loss.
Just one week of sleep deprivation altered subject's hormone levels and their capacity to metabolize carbohydrates.
During sleep deprivation the researchers found that the men's blood sugar levels took 40% longer to drop following a high-carbohydrate meal, compared with the control group (well rested group).
Their ability to secrete and respond to the hormone insulin (which helps regulate blood sugar) dropped by 30%.
Additionally, the sleep-deprived men had higher night-time concentrations of the hormone cortisol, (hormone released in response to stress), and lower levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone.
These raised cortisol levels mimic levels that are often seen in older people, and may be involved in age-related insulin resistance and memory loss.
So with that in mind here are some helpful tips to getting a good night's sleep:
1. Get to sleep by 10.00 pm if possible - as most of the physical repair in your body takes place between 10 pm and 2 am. For example the gallbladder dumps toxins during this period. If you are awake then your liver is being overworked and perhaps sending toxins into your bloodstream.
2. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath and then reading a book or listening to soothing music. Some studies suggest that soaking in hot water before retiring to bed can ease the transition into deeper sleep, but it should be done early enough that you are no longer sweating or over-heated.
3. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, cool, and without interruptions. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Also make your bedroom reflective of the value you place on sleep. If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland's production of melatonin and serotonin (growth and immune boasting hormones).
4. Avoid arousing activities before bedtime like working, paying bills, engaging in competitive games or family problem-solving.
5. Avoid exposure to bright light before bedtime because it signals the neurons that help control the sleep-wake cycle that it is time to awaken, not to sleep.
6. Keep the light off when you go to the bathroom at night. As soon as you turn on that light you will immediately cease all production of the important sleep aid melatonin.
7. Eating a high-protein snack several hours before bed works for many (but not all as it depends on metabolic type). This can provide the L-tryptophan needed to produce melatonin and serotonin. Also eat a small piece of fruit. This can help the L-tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier.
8. Avoid foods that you may be sensitive to. This is particularly true for dairy and wheat products, as they may have effect on sleep, such as causing apnea, excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset, and gas, among others. Additionally grains will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.
9. Exercise regularly. It is best to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime. In general, exercising regularly makes it easier to fall asleep and contributes to sounder sleep. However, exercising sporadically or right before going to bed will make falling asleep more difficult. In addition to making us more alert, our body temperature rises during exercise, and takes as much as 6 hours to begin to drop. A cooler body temperature is associated with sleep onset.
10. Wear socks to bed. Due to the fact that they have the poorest circulation, the feet often feel cold before the rest of the body does. A study has shown that this reduces night waking.
11. Remove the clock from view. It will only add to your worry when constantly staring at it... 2 am...3 am... 4:30 am...
12. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment.
13. Using dimmer switches in living rooms and bathrooms before bed can be helpful.
14. Journaling. If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed.
15. Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) close to bedtime. It can keep you awake as caffeine is a stimulant, which means it can produce an alerting effect. Caffeine products remain in the body on average from 3 to 5 hours, but they can affect some people up to 12 hours later. Even if you do not think caffeine affects you, it may be disrupting and changing the quality of your sleep.
16. Avoid nicotine (e.g. cigarettes, tobacco products). When smokers go to sleep, they experience withdrawal symptoms from nicotine, which causes sleep problems.
17. Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. Although many people think of alcohol as a sedative, it actually disrupts sleep, causing nighttime awakenings. Alcohol will also keep you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep, where the body does most of its healing.
18. Avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on the body to be awoken suddenly. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, they should be unnecessary.
19. Avoid drinking any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood of needing to get up and go to the bathroom or at least minimize the frequency.
20. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is supportive and have comfortable pillows. Make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night.
21. Listen to white noise or relaxation CDs. Some people find nature sounds like rainfall or ocean waves, or white noise soothing for sleep.
22. Herbs including chamomile and valerian are regarded as natural relaxants.
Happy Sleeping! :-)
Your 3d Coach
(1) The Lancet October 23, 1999, 354:1435-1439
By Craig Burton BSc (Sports Science), CHEK NLC2, NASM PES
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