Updated: Nov 16, 2021
In the previous blog, I listed the 5 pillars of FitLife. 5 Aspects of your life that are worth addressing, if you want to start living the way you want.
The first one is sleep. It is the first thing we should address and probably the one, that by addressing it, we will see faster results.
In the last blog, I mentioned how in 3 days I managed to hold the handstand 10 seconds longer, just by sleeping better. But sleep is not only important for performance, but It is also crucial for our overall health and well-being.
Most people suffer from chronic undersleeping. That is due to the busy lifestyle we live nowadays. We wake up early and go to bed super late. We always rush, always need a bit more time to finish something, and sleep is usually the very first compromise. How many times have you heard the phrase: I will sleep when I die.? Countless. The scary truth is that if we keep living by this motto, we will happen to rest sooner than we think…
Yes, high speed is the number one cause of car accidents, but sleep is no further back. If you are only one hour sleep deprived, you are 20 % more likely to be involved in a car accident. Just one hour! But one hour out of 8. How many of us are sleeping 8 hours every night?
An interesting fact is that there is a 24 % spike in heart attacks the day after the Daylight saving time and a 21 % drop the day after we return to normal. What changed was one hour of sleep gained.
And death is not the ultimate driver for change. We want performance, we want growth and improvement. Well, let me tell you something. During sleep, the brain rest, recharge and process the information we have collected during the day. This is actually how the brain learns new skills and remembers patterns.
Change, due to training is called adaptation. And adaptation happens when we sleep. This is the time when our brain is not busy moving the body, collecting and processing the information of outside. The night is the time where the brain rebuilds connective tissue. This is how we gain strength, grow muscles, become faster, agile, better. When we sleep, our brain assesses the stress and damage we do during the day and responds to it. It makes stronger what was not strong enough. So finally, it is worth investing some time and effort in something that is so free and will get us closer to the goals we have.
But just sleeping for 8 hours is not enough. And let’s be honest most of us, even though we should, can’t afford it. Sure, quantity is essential, but have we looked at the quality of sleep.
Have you felt super tired in the morning, after sleeping 8, 9, 10 hours? Well, you might have nailed the quantity, but have you actually slept well?
It is hard to measure the quality of sleep, however, there are some cues to look for.
If you are easily irritated, moody, feeling that you can explode any second or even getting frustrated at stuff that normally would not. Well, guess what? You may not have rested enough.
If you find yourself reaching for another cup of coffee or energy drink? Feeling tired all day. Taking longer than usual, to catch up on your breath after an activity. Feeling lazy and without motivation. It could be again the lack of sleep or the quality of it.
Hard to focus, hard to remember stuff, to keep up with others on a specific topic. Difficulties to make decisions. Slow reflexes and less agility. Oh, that sleep again.
I am listing those cues not to scare you, but rather to help you gain awareness. All those happen for a reason and sleep is one of them. Once you are aware of those variables, then you will be able to make the right changes.
And speaking of changes. What are the main reasons for lack of quantity or quality sleep? How can we prioritize it, in order to simply feel better?
I am going to list two of the most common habits that we tend to have and some tips on how to change them.
So, I might stretch a bit more here, but in order for you to get what I mean, I have to.
Melatonin is the hormone that tells our body that is time to sleep. The body starts to produce it, when the sun sets, knowing that night has come, and we are about to rest. And stops producing it in the morning, when the sunrise, knowing that is time to be awake. But how does the body know when to produce it? Well, it is simple – the eyes. When the eye is exposed to the sunlight, it sends signals to the glands, to stop producing melatonin. When there is no sunlight coming to the eye, the signal says – “it is time to produce melatonin”
The problem starts when there is no sunlight, but we trick the eye with artificial (blue) light. If there is constant sun or blue light, the brain doesn’t know that it`s time to sleep, so it won’t be prepared. Therefore we may have 8 hours of sleep, but without the brain being prepared to do so, we will have less quality sleep.
How do we change that?
Simply use candles or dimmed light during the evenings. Do not, or avoid using electronics at least two hours before bed. Most of the devices these days have some modes to help with the blue light, such as night shift mode, night light, etc… Blue blocking glasses are also a good option but are not an excuse to watch TV with them every night. It might be difficult to break the routine in the beginning, but trust me – dimmed light, candles, and massage can make your night with your partner, very interesting. And if that is not the case, a podcast or a good book is a very good option too.
Caffeine is a great stimulator of the nervous system and a pretty good performance enhancer. Yet if we use too much of it, it is going to affect the way we rest.
Let me explain.
Every substance that affects the natural process of our body, has what is called: half-life. The half-life of caffeine is 6 hours. This means that after 6 hours, half of the substance (caffeine) is still going to be present in our system. In another 6 hours, half of that half is going to be in, and on and on until it is fully used.
In other words, if we have one coffee at 8 am in the morning which on average contains about 60 mg of caffeine. After 6 hours (at 2 pm) you are going to have 30 mg in your system. After another 6 hours (8 pm) you will have 15 mg remaining, after 6 more hours (2 am), 7,5…. You get the idea. And that is with only one single espresso in the morning. Most of us have at least 2 cups per day. Also, note that different coffee types have different amounts of caffeine. I let you do your own research about that.
We all know that coffee and sleep are not best friends, and they will never be. We can’t expect to rest well with caffeine in our system, right
I am not trying to scare you or highlight stuff. I simply want you to be aware of that and make your own decisions. You can try to have less coffee, not have any after lunch, or use a decaf one.
There is a number of other habits and factors that affect sleep such as eating before bed, activities during the night, temperature, noise, lack of routine, etc… but I feel like the two listed above are some of the most common ones. And I am more than positive that if we try to address just those 2, our life will change to a better one in no time.
Check out Episode 2 of Fit Life Radio to learn more about sleep and how to improve it.