Why is Sleep Important:
The most obvious answer is, you spend at least 1/3 of your life in bed, so make it as enjoyable and complete an experience you can. Also in all honestly If you do not sleep, you will die…SLOWLY!
No really, sleep is essential for our bodies’ complete functioning on all cylinders. Your mental, physical, and even spiritual health rely on your ability to get the 7.5-9 hours of daily sleep (includes a 20-30 minute nap).1 2
What happens when you do not sleep:
Obviously you become less resilient over time, your mood shifts, your body will not recover as quickly, and your body and brain age faster.
Here are some facts by Ben Greenfield, one of the leading fitness and health podcasters of our time.1 2
- Your brain cleans up cellular garbage when you sleep. Basically, re-organization of neural networks take place. During a typical day your mind is working consciously and subconsciously, learning new things, summarizing facts or task processes, acquiring skills, building memories. There has to be some time during the day that your brain can rest and re-organize and refresh. Sleep time it is. If sleep does not happen, your body and mind will malfunction.How it malfunctions is concerning. You will have trouble with hot and cold regulation which is governed by your central nervous system. There will be a decline in immune function, there will be a increase in cortisol, catecholamines, and other stress hormones, increase in inflammation, and imbalances in blood sugar to name a few.
- Your body repairs at night during your sleep.Your physical ability to recover goes down by almost 70% if you do not sleep enough. Forget PR’s in running, biking, swimming, and WODing. Even if you do, you are not optimal and your body is not functioning at full capacity. It is like the concept of pain. If you don’t have pain, does not mean you are moving awesome. Your poor or good movement patterns will effect you over time. Despite how you feel and how you kid yourself daily with 3-5 cups of coffee and whatever other legal or illegal drug you use to stay awake, your lack of sleep or sufficient sleep will affect you.However, the scary thing is, maybe you have no idea what should feel right because you have always been sleep deprived and working at 70% of your capacity. For the love of barbells and living an awesome life, get some rest!!
During night time sleep, you experience an increase or surge in growth hormone and testosterone, two crucial muscle repairing hormones which also significantly affect your neural growth and the way you feel during the day. Your muscles get a chance to repair, but your adrenals also thank you and are given a chance to relax and your liver is able to do its job of detoxification, and your immune system is able to rebuild.
Just putting your feet up is not going to cut it. Sleep matters!
Mind Blowing Statistics on Sleep:
The sleep industry is a $16 billion dollar industry. This does not include accidents and decreased productivity at work due to higher stress and lack of focus which costs America $150 billion dollars.1 2
As Ben Greenfield would say, do some research and check out some of our nation’s catastrophies and how they are directly related to sleep deprivation. Think of the disasters at Three Mile Island. Chernobyl. The gas leak at Bhopal. The Zeebrugge disaster. The Exxon Valdez oil spill.
What about high blood pressure and heart disease? Each year sleep disorders add $16 billion to national health-care costs.
How Many Hours are ideal: 2
This can vary depending on your genetics, but the National Sleep Foundation has established guidelines (shown below) based on their up-to-date sleep research.
Morning Light, Your Cortisol, Body Temperature, and Napping:
Good morning sunlight otherwise known as blue light exposure will kick start your circadium rhythm to optimize cortisol release in your body. This blue light is a phenomenon and should be experienced between the 2 -3 hours after sunrise. This unfiltered exposure to your naked eyeballs can literally help your cortisol levels decline in the evening, so you can have a more deep and effective sleep. 7
Your body temperature takes two dips during the day. 1 is 8 hours after you wake up, and the second is before you go to bed. Your body drops slightly in temperature and sleepiness takes over. You may have thought you were bored or it was your food, but it is a great time to take a power nap. Your body needs to be re-energized and we are designed for frequent rest. Unfortunately our society and work life may not support this, but fit it in when you can; your body is crying for it.
Best Positions to Sleep: 3 4 5
#1) On Your Back in shavasana or “corpse pose”
Lying on your back puts the least amount of load on the spine. Add a pillow under your knees and a soft yet not too-thick pillow underneath your head, if necessary, and you are golden. Ideally you should not need a pillow under your head, but we have grown accustomed to our head pillows, so just make sure the pillow is not so thick that it throws your neck into too much flexion. In this corpse pose, the nerve plexus in your hip region and shoulder region are opened up, your low back can relax (depending on your mattress), see below on how you know if you NEED a new mattress.
#2) Side Sleeping
This has slightly more load on the spine, but often times is the most comfortable position. Doctors encourage sleeping on the left side during pregnancy because it improves circulation to the heart, which benefits both mom and baby. Side sleeping is also a pregnancy winner because sleeping on the back puts pressure on the lower back (which can lead to fainting). For those who are NOT pregnant sleeping on the left side can also ease heartburn and acid reflux, making it easier for people with these conditions to doze off. Add a pillow between your knees and make sure all your hip, shoulder, and ear are lines up so your spine actually can stay in a neutral position while sleeping. To give you a visual, your neck should not be side bent in any way or flexed forward, or your top leg hinging forward into internal rotation. If you spend 1/3 of your life in a douchey position, you can’t expect your body to perform optimally for the 30-60 minutes you spend in the gym.
#3) Stomach sleeping:
This is the worst sleep position because if you are using a pillow you end up throwing your neck into extension and rotation cutting off vital vascular circulation to your brain and arms. Plus it can throw your lower spine into an overextension. If you just have to sleep in this position throw a pillow under your abdomen and do NOT use a pillow for your neck.
Do you have a good mattress?
As Dr. Kelly Starrett mentioned in his MobilityWOD video, you spend 1/3 of your life in bed, so make sure the mattress is amazing. Kelly devised a 1 minute rule. If you lay on your back in your own bed and you immediately have to change positions to get comfortable or kick out a leg of place or put your arms in funky positions, then it is time to get a new mattress. You want to feel like you are sleeping on clouds.8
The mattress that’s right for you lets you wake up feeling rested and free of pain or soreness. Unless you have a condition that may require a certain type of mattress, you should choose a mattress that provides support for the natural curves of your spine and is comfortable.
Check out the organic mattress store video (I talk about side sleeping with my Uncle Dennis who owns The Organic Mattress Store in Hellertown Pennsylvania with my Aunt Leora. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3x_WBz5XXA
1How to Sleep Better Podcast: http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2012/06/how-to-sleep-better/. Listened Aug 10th 2015.
2 BenGreenField.com. Get Better Sleep. http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2013/07/get-better-sleep/ . Accessed Aug 11th 2015
3University of Rochester Medical Center. Good Sleep Posture Helps your Back. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4460. Accessed Aug 11th 2015.
4ThePainSource.com. Intradiscal Pressures in Various Everyday Positioning. http://thepainsource.com/intradiscal-pressures-in-various-everyday-positioning/. Accessed Aug 12th 2015
5American Pregnancy Association. Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/sleeping-positions-during-pregnancy/. Accessed Aug 11th 2015
6Vox.com. Sleep- Cold- Temperature. http://www.vox.com/2014/11/5/7157163/sleep-cold-temperature. Accessed Aug 11th 2015
7HowStuffWorks.com. How to Fall Asleep. http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/sleep/basics/how-to-fall-asleep4.htm. Accessed Aug 11th 2015.
8MobilityWOD. Is Your Bed Too Firm? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rWidQgT5yo. Accessed Aug 17th 2015.