Master the Basics series:
Many things in health need repeated until they stick. Sleep is the main one. So many dismiss and neglect it’s importance.
A long, long time ago I was talking with a body builder and something that struck me was how obsessed he was with his sleep. He had to get 8-9 hours every night and he wouldn’t let anything get in the way. That convo with him sparked my interest in studying the power of sleep more. Selfishly, at that time I just thought it was motivating because it would help my muscles look better!
Nowadays, I personally know I can’t function at the energy level that’s required of me on a daily basis, to be the my best I can for others, without adequate sleep. And what makes me even more strict about it is that after years of reading and studying it, I know too much about the negative effects of not getting enough sleep, that it will heighten my anxiety even more if I don’t!
From what I’ve discovered about sleep I can confidently say:
More often than not, sleep is more important than your workouts.
Usually, sleep is more important than your eating habits too.
Why You Need To Sleep
Sleep balances your hormones. “Two hormones that help regulate hunger—ghrelin and leptin—are affected by sleep: Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived, the level of ghrelin spikes, while the level of leptin falls, leading to an increase in hunger.” (SleepFoundation.org)
Sleep rebuilds your muscles. “Post-performance sleep accelerates physical recovery from common inflammation, stimulates muscle repair, and helps restock cellular energy in the form of glucose and glycogen.” (Walker, pg 130)
Sleep enables you to burn more fat. “Sleep reforms the body’s metabolic state by fine-tuning the balance of insulin and circulating glucose.” (Walker, pg 7)
Sleep increases your cardiac output. “Obtain anything less than eight hours of sleep a night, and especially less than six hours a night, and the following happens: time to physical exhaustion drops by 10 to 30 percent, and aerobic output is significantly reduced.” (Walker, pg 129)
Sleep prevents sicknesses and wards off colds and the flu. “Sleep restocks the armory of our immune system, helping fight malignancy, preventing infection, and warding off all manner of sickness.” (Walker, pg 7)
Sleep resets your cognitive functioning. Researchers are finding that it’s one of the most productive things we can do because we grow in our sleep. During sleep, we process the information and experiences we gather while awake. A brain cleansing also happens and toxic waste is removed while we slumber.
How Much Do You Need
Regardless of whether or not you think you need it, or that you can get away with less, you need 7.5-8 hours at minimum. Some people need more.
It’s just how we were designed. And I know, you’re going to say you can’t make time for it. But it’s something to take seriously.
After all, sleep deprivation has a negative impact on depression, anxiety, stress, brain development, obesity, nervous breakdowns, and other psychological and emotional issues.
65% of Americans get less than what’s medically required.
I’m convinced, poor sleeping habits are a major reason why people are falling apart.
I physically feel the difference during the day when I don’t get to bed on time! And I can’t imagine the wear and tear that would happen if I kept doing that day in and day out over time, for years.
Don’t just accept OK. Most people are functioning in a fatigued state and they’ve either accepted it, or just don’t realize what it’s like to actually feel optimal. Don’t be of this world! (John 17:14-15) Sleeping better is within reach and better is so much better!
How To Optimize Your Sleep
Shut down technology 60-90 minutes before bed.
This one sounds impossible right? Just understand why. Blue light from your screens signals to your brain that it’s awake/alert time, similar to the sun. This alters your circadian rhythm (the biological clock God designed us with). Essentially, we are supposed to wake up with the sun and go to sleep relatively close to sundown.
Cortisol is the stress hormone that releases in the morning to wake us up. In fact, it’s supposed to be at its highest in the morning. Then it tapers throughout the day. As it goes down towards the afternoon and early evening, melatonin then starts to release to help your body start to rest and prepare for night time.
When you’re exposed to blue light, cortisol is released. Dopamine hits are released also. Every time you check that phone or stare at a computer screen, your body is getting hits to wake up. Your hormones get thrown off and it could lead to sleep disruptions. Researchers can literally see that our bodies are experiencing stress levels similar to first responders because of the constant exposure to blue light.
Get that temperature just right.
Seems that the ‘right’ temperature is supposed to be cooler than warmer, in the 66-72 degree range. I seem to do better in the upper range of 70-72, but I personally can’t stand cold!
Shut down that water intake 60-90 minutes before bed.
We don’t want our sleep disrupted by having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. So even though you need to drink a lot of water during the day, calculate it so you stop in time before bed. I stop 90 minutes before I go to sleep so I don’t have to wake up for restroom breaks!
Take a nap.
Did you know that all humans, irrespective of culture or geographical location, have a genetically hardwired dip in alertness that occurs in the mid afternoon hours? (Walker, pg 69) As a full-blooded Italian, I can attest. I need a siesta every day around 1:30-2pm. In one of the blue zones Ikaria, Greece, where siestas still remain in tact, men are four times as likely to reach the age of 90 as American males.
Establish a strict evening routine.
This really all comes down to discipline and being so mindful and aware of the importance of prepping for quality sleep. Most of us have kids and spouses but we can include them in our routine. Reading with our kids and praying with our spouses is part of winding down. From there as you close your eyes, do some deep breathing techniques for five seconds in and out as you personally pray to God. This will help you be present and bring you into the moment. Also, get any ideas and to-do’s out of your mind. Write them down so they don’t nag at you.
Supplements: CBD Oil and Magnesium
CBD oil is showing to have some powerful effects on people’s health. You can read about the endless benefits at Clean Remedies. This is the best brand that we endorse, sell out our gym, and personally take ourselves. No, it’s not marijuana! It’s non hallucinogenic. It does not induce any kind of “high” or negatively impact your thought process.
CBD is full spectrum hemp extract. Cannabinoids are a group of fatty compounds found in the hemp plant but also found in other plants and the human body. There are more than 60 known cannabinoids. Of the 60 + phytocannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) is the most well known.
CBD comes from the earth, used to be found naturally in crops, and is in women’s breast milk.
For sleep, it’s amazing. It puts you into a deep sleep and if you wake, it helps you to fall asleep easier again. CBD works with your body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This is a system within the body involved in regulating a variety of physiological and cognitive processes through CB1 & CB2 receptors found in the brain, skin and major organs.
“Magnesium is a certified anti-stress mineral. It helps to balance blood sugar, optimize circulation and blood pressure, relax tense muscles, reduce pain, and calm the nervous system. Yet, because it has so many functions, it tends to get depleted from our bodies rather fast.” (Stevenson, pg 58)
Estimates show that approximately 80% of the US population is deficient in magnesium. Main reason = our soil is being rapidly depleted and destroyed from big agricultural farming and toxic sprays and chemicals. God’s soil used to produce magnesium naturally and abundantly which would then naturally occur in the crops we eat.
Through studying I have found that poor sleepers are usually deficient in one of three things: calcium, potassium, or magnesium. You can take too much so be careful. Usually 400mg is max.
I read and study a lot. Many things in health are disputable. Sleep, however, is the one thing that I never find a disagreement on. All research I’ve personally explored to at this point agrees that 7.5-8 hours is a must.
Sleep is one of the best recovery methods. We’re going to talk about that more in our next article about Recovery. Even God rested. Who are we to think we don’t need it?
As always, never take my word for it.
Try some of these things for yourself today. And it may just be an absolute game-changer for you and everyone in your life.
Sleep Smarter, Shawn Stevenson
Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker