Friday, August 5, 2011
“An hour before midnight is worth 2 after.” ~Sleep Proverb
Sleep truly has been the missing element to healthy living for me in the past. Like most guys I would rather stay up late and play video games than go to bed early. But trust me when I say this, making the time to improve your quality of sleep will make a big difference in how you look, perform, fell and even age!
Sleep is not a passive state, it is the time our body and brain uses neurological performance, endocrine (hormone) balance, immune system functioning, and musculoskeletal growth and repair. A full night of sleep will enhance your memory performance and creative problem solving skills the next day. It will also further boost your athletic performance, including speed, accuracy, mood and overall energy. Good sleeping habits will keep you health, in fact, your immune system is most active during sleep. To boot, adequate sleep makes you more resilient to daily stress, which supports your immune functioning that much more. And finally, solid, consistent sleep over the long-term has been linked to self-reported “successful” aging.
Still not sold on getting more quality sleep? Just look at the negative effects sleep deprivation:
- cognitive weakness
- you sacrifice all manner of memory abilities, including short-term and working memory
- over time, even long-term memory and the generation of nerve cells are impaired
- impact on emotional mood and well-being (I am famous for being a jerk when tired)
- to increase the risk for conditions like depression and exacerbate pre-existing psychological illnesses
- even a single night of sleeplessness can throw our emotional regulatory abilities out the window.
- a single night of sleep loss increases systemic inflammation, and impairs the body’s ability to handle the kind of moderate oxidative stress we deal with every day
- sleep deprivation was a common torture tool in the USSR, and in extreme cases can cause death, so plenty of sleep is important for a happy and healthy life
Now that you are finally on board, how much do you need? It seems that seven to eight hours is common, some people like me need nine or ten. A rare few can get away with only six or so hours of shut eye, but very few and that is likely not you. Most people think they can get by with less sleep but what they are really adapting to is functioning at a lower cognitive level. In other words, they are getting used to being stupider!
How can you improve your quality of sleep and get more bed time in? Some of the tricks I have used over the years include lunch time naps, enforcing a bedtime, wearing ear plugs, wearing a mask in the summer, turning off or covering all sources of light in the room, and not using an alarm.
For me, going to bed early and sleeping in complete darkness with a mask and earplugs is the only way to ensure quality sleep. I need 8-10 hours in a colder room (which helps with fat loss too!) and I have to be in bed before midnight. Sleeping in is fine, but for some reason it isn’t the same as hitting the hay early.
What is the key to getting to bed early? It is so simple yet important, you need to turn off the TV and computer at least 1 hour before bed, no screens! The lights from screens mess with your body’s natural sleep inducing hormones. I try to avoid screens after dinner, opting to read or spend quality time with my wife instead as a relaxation technique! I recommend it, not my wife of course, you have to find your own.