The Power Of Sleep

Sleep often gets overlooked in modern times; especially if you have a fast paced job and social life. I myself struggle to get enough sleep. However i make it a priority each day that       i get into bed at a decent time to allow for a decent amount of rest time.

Lack of sleep is associated with many disorders including more fat tissue, more hunger pains, smaller muscles, more irritability, higher stress levels and an earlier death. So when people say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, they’ll probably die earlier because of their lack of sleep.

Sleep deprivation can really screw up your life. A good night’s sleep is essential to recover from gym sessions, balance your hormones and recharge your body. A regular quality sleep pattern will also mean you’ll live longer – fact!

Sleep scientists agree 7-8 hours of sleep per night or per 24-hour cycle is necessary. However, this 7-8-hour period should be quality sleep; meaning uninterrupted deep sleep. Too little sleep creates a sleep debt, which is like being overdrawn at the bank. Eventually the body will demand that the debt be repaid. As a general rule try not to go further than 5 days in sleep debt. So if your work/social lifestyle doesn’t allow you much sleep set aside one day per week to pay your debt. A week consisting of 5 hour sleeps each night can lead to a 15% decrease in testosterone production, also a significant increase in the stress hormone cortisol.

Improving sleep quality can be done by:

  • Setting a scheduled time for sleep

  • Eating late at night, yes I just wrote that!

  • Avoid activating the brain and operating electrical devices

  • Taking a warm bath/shower pre bedtime

  • Keeping your bedroom in complete darkness

  • Avoid displaying clocks

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol

  • Lower temperatures improve sleep; try to keep the room cool.

Sleep is always considered a passive activity but while the body rests the brain stays active. During sleep the body passes through 4 stages; stages 1,2,3 and 4 which is R.E.M. (Rapid Eye Movement). Stage 1 the lightest form of sleep can be considered the transition from drowsiness to sleep. During this stage the body can easily be woken.

Stages 2-3 are considered the transition to stage 4, the deepest form of sleep. Deep sleep coincides with the release of growth hormone. Deep sleep allows for physical repair and growth, also the regeneration of many of the body’s cells.  Growth hormone is like a youth potion created by the human body. It keeps us young, repairs and grows your body, it also helps your body function more efficiently and effectively.The final stage of sleep is REM, which is when the brain starts to show off. REM sleep is used to create memory’s, the learning process is associated with REM sleep and this when the brain also dreams. Sleep stages progress in a cycle fashion, from 1-4. A complete cycle takes between 90 and 110 minutes.

During REM sleep, breathing becomes more rapid, irregular and shallow. The eyes move rapidly and limb muscles are temporarily paralyzed. Levels of brain wave activity rise, heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, males develop erections and the body’s ability to regulate its core temperature reduces.This is when most dreams occur and most people experience 3-5 intervals of REM sleep each night. Rem sleep cycles range from 10 minutes to 60 minutes. The first interval is generally shorter than the last. So considering the time spent in REM sleep can range between 1.5-2 hours of an 8-hour sleep period; the restorative factor makes REM sleep a very important part of sleep.

If REM sleep is disrupted even for one night, the body struggles to follow normal circadian (inner clock) sleep cycle progression. What can happen the next or following nights is the brain will slip the body directly into REM sleep to play catch up. The body will continue to go through extended periods of REM sleep until the sleep debt is paid. Poor sleep cycles can cause grogginess, a lack of concentration and an increase in cortisol levels – not a good thing!

Change your lifestyle so that every night you get a quality sleep; it is the key to an optimally functioning body and mind.

Napping can be a way of counteracting the effects of sleep deprivation, boosting energy and improving cognition. However, all naps are not equal. Allow yourself a 30minute time limit. This will stop you falling into REM sleep and waking up feeling worse. If your feeling considerably sleepy go for a full cycle nap. Allow for a 90-minute nap. This amount of downtime will allow your body to go into REM sleep and come out of it naturally.

Sleep is the only time your body can grow and repair itself. It takes roughly 7 years for the body to repair and renew every cell in your body. So sleep well, burn fat and build lean powerful muscle now!

Venuto, T., 2003. Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle.

Holford, P., 1999. The optimum nutrition bible. Springer Science & Business.

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