Thursday, October 14, 2010

Am I Sleeping Enough?

My Nephew Jad

Short answer: no.  Not at all.  And man am I becoming more and more aware of just how important it is that I get more.  Long answer: let me talk briefly about my workout and I'll get right back to it...

Yesterday, my second workout went a little sub-what-I-would-have-liked.  Hitting up the Burlingame High School track, I got a good warm up in, then did 2 x 400 meters and 2 x 800 meters sprints.  My goal was sub-1:10 for the 400's and sub-3:00 for the 800's, and I did not achieve this at all.  Got 1:09 and 1:12 for the first two efforts, then 3:04 and 3:05 on the longer runs.  The worst part of this was that I was so spent that I ended up flailing away to just cross the finish line without slowing down too much.  And because of my lack of control at the end there, I ended up tweaking my knee a little.  We'll see how it feels with front squats and a heavy metcon today...

Back to sleep... Having trained a large amount of super-busy business folk in DC, along with your typical high school and college student during school, I have seen my fair share of people who function on very little sleep.  I have heard people talk about how they need more, others talk about how they are perfectly fine with just 5-6 hours per night, still others claim they literally can not function properly without at least 7 (and they prefer 9 or 10).  I personally have been functioning (notice I did not say functioning WELL there) off around an average of 5-6 hours per night for the past year and I am about at my wits end with it.  Now I know everyone is different, I am more than aware of the need to acknowledge this as a trainer and coach, and have become even more aware as I got focused on the effects of food in peoples lives.  Sleep is no different; I can wake up and train 4 people after only 3 hours sleep.  While I would prefer not to, I have trained myself to adapt to feeling tired and can function relatively well.  But does someone being able to perform normal daily duties on minimal sleep mean it is ok to do so?

Hell.  No.

Having talked to so may people, and having read a few too many articles (a few of them are linked below), it is very clear that stress is the leading reason people do not get enough sleep.  And the tough part of this is that when you combine stress and lack of sleep, you are promoting the release of cortisol in double the dosage.  Cortisol is a hormone that any human interested in being healthy wants to avoid releasing in high/lengthy doses.  It is known as the "stress" hormone as it ends up being secreted during the most stressful times to help the body function better under stress (gives a burst of energy, heightens senses, lowers pain sensitivity).  But, given the fact that we as humans these days love to be stressed all the time, we never allow our bodies to return to a relaxed state, allowing the cortisol to continue running around.  This leads to decreased bone density and muscle mass, increased fat, higher blood pressure and major blood sugar imbalances.  Holy cow!

And to think, all this could probably be avoided if you just got a couple more hours of sleep each night.  But of course this is a lot easier said than done, and believe me, if I had it figured out I would probably win some sort of major prize.  But of course I don't, I need help with this like crazy.  So all I can do is share my ideas and try things out and let everyone know how it works for me, with the hope that it can work for you as well.

Number one goal would be to de-stress in the evening.  I tend to sit in front of the TV and/or computer after dinner for a good long while, and this does nothing but add to my stress (thanks to the overflow of light, electricity, information and changing colors).  I have committed to going for a nice little walk a bit after dinner.  Just stroll around and take in the outdoors, breathing and thinking.  I have not done this enough to know if it works for me, but the idea sounds great.  Other steps I will be taking will be avoiding food for a couple hours before I plan to get into bet, keeping the computer off for at least an hour before I hit the sack, and doing some very light static stretching to relax my muscles.  There are endless ideas for for trying to get better sleep (writing down your thoughts to get them out of your head, praying/meditating, reading, counting so on, so on), and all of them include some form of stress reducing.  So, if you have trouble sleeping, or just think that you don't need sleep like everyone in the world really does, read up a little bit and go get to bed!

I will be re-posting on the topic in a couple weeks to let you all know what I have found in my experimentation.  In the mean time, if any of you have any tricks, share them!

T-Nation Post
Harvard Business Review
American Psychological Association

Never Stop, GET FIT.

Josh Courage

No comments: