“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
“Sleep is for the weak.”
“I can get by on six hours a night.”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? They are the conversations we have with ourselves daily.
In our practice, we have seen nearly every muscle, joint, and nerve injury under the sun. And every time we meet with one of our new clients, we ask specific questions about their sleep habits:
- How long do you sleep every night?
- What position do you sleep in?
- Do you sleep in a pitch-black room?
- Do you watch TV, use a computer, tablet, or smartphone within an hour of bedtime?
- Do you have a regular bedtime routine?
These are what we call the “sleep hygiene” questions.
For anyone struggling to recover from a workout, heal an injury, lose weight, build muscle, live or work in a high-stress environment, lower blood sugar, decrease cholesterol levels, increase their sex drive, or even improve their concentration at work or school, quality sleep is absolutely essential.
Dr. Kirk Parsley, one of the foremost experts in sleep medicine, highlights several shocking facts about sleep:
After you’re awake for 18 consecutive hours, your reflexes and your ability to do math problems, make sound decisions, and drive safely are equivalent to performing at a blood alcohol level of 0.05%.
After 24 hours of wake time (a common occurrence with shift workers, police, military, and fire personnel), these performance markers are equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal limit in the U.S.
If you “short sleep” yourself-meaning you get 2 hours less than the normal 8 you need every night-over the course of 11 consecutive nights, your performance is equal to how you’d perform after 24 consecutive hours of wake time. In other words, you’re performing like you’re legally drunk.
Stretch that short sleep out to 22 consecutive nights and you perform as if you’ve been up for 48 consecutive hours-and your day-to-day and physical performance really suffers.
A single night of poor sleep influences insulin and glucose regulation. Insulin drives the process of partitioning fuel (the food you eat) to certain areas in your body. When you short sleep, your insulin sensitivity drops, leading directly to more partitioning of fuel to body fat, an increase in your appetite for high glycemic (sugary) foods, and a measurable decrease in will power and impulse control.
Ambien, Lunesta, and the other “Z drugs” as Parsley refers to them, as well as common benzodiazepines (commonly prescribed as anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications-think Xanax, Valium, Ativan) completely alter normal sleep architecture (the normal stages of sleep). These medications keep your brain in phase 2 of sleep, a transition phase of unconsciousness, preventing deeper stage 3 and 4 sleep where the normal process of repair and restoration takes place. Being stuck in stage 2 means you’re just unconscious; you’re not actually sleeping.
So if we’re serious about optimizing our well-being, short term and long term, in any setting or situation, how do we get right on our sleep?
Here’s the "how" to empower your sleep routine:
Aim for 7.5 hours a night, plus or minus 30 minutes. The research that supports this amount of sleep has existed for over 50 years, and there’s zero debate about it in serious scientific circles.
Pick a consistent bedtime every night, if possible. And set an alarm on your watch or phone to alert you when it’s time to start getting ready for bed.
Go “tech-free” an hour before bedtime. The blue light from those screens makes it next to impossible for your brain to get into bedtime-mode. If you have to be on your computer or laptop try the application f.lux This app gradually blocks out blue light on your computer screen as afternoon turns to evening and the sun sets. Most tablets and smartphones have a "Night Shift" feature that will also block out the blue light.
Black-out your room. No TV, bright alarm clocks, night lights. The Blackout EZ Window Covers are some of our favorites and are an affordable choice.
Sleep in a cold room. 67-68 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal.
Incorporate gentle stretching, journal, prayer, meditation, or 5 minutes of deep breathing into your bedtime routine. All of these activities have been shown to increase the activity of your Parasympathetic Nervous System, what we call the “Rest & Digest” system.
If after 30 nights you’re not looking, feeling, or performing better, you may need to seek out a consultation with a practitioner who can look for possible vitamin, mineral, and hormone deficiencies that could be making it hard for you to sleep well.
If you have more questions about how to recover better from your workouts and continue to grow strong and age gracefully, feel free to reach out to us by clicking the "Inquire Now" button on this page or reaching out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at (913) 396-9726.