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From the Blog


Sleep – How doing nothing fixes everything


*article first published on May 2015*

We all do it (maybe not enough of it), its free, it’s pretty essential for normal function yet with our love of social media and the high quality of late night TV (improved health vs the latest installment of Turtleman, I know which one I’m picking) sleep is one of those things that at times we are bizarrely unwilling to make a high priority.  So even though it’s completely free (and you could do it anywhere depending on your level of narcolepsy) we present CrossFit Adelaides Sales Pitch for Sleep –

Firstly what happens during sleep –

So a normal sleep cycle is broken down into 4 stages

Stage 1 – The jerkin’ twitchin’  phase (not the scientific term), this is the initial light sleep that you drift off into and you can be easily woken from and lasts about 10-15min, it is also the time when you’re most likely to be twitchin’ – this phase of sleep most commonly occurs at my house on the couch

Stage 2 – This is when you are actually falling proper asleep and lasts around 45-60min, breathing slows down, body temperature drops, brain starts tuning out a bit – basically everything is becoming more relaxed.  This is the stage where if someone woke you up you are likely to be disorientated and confused (ie not know what day of the week it is,stumble around a bit)  This is known as the unsatisfying nap phase is you’re woken up during it – this phase also most commonly occurs on my couch

Stage 3 – Now you are seriously asleep, this is deep sleep and where a lot of the magic happens – muscle and tissue repair, useful hormones like growth hormone are released (gotta sleep to get swole!).  You spend about 20% of your sleeping time in this stage, lots of good stuff happens here so you want to be getting quality sleep to maximise your time here

Stage 4 – REM, Not the 90’s anthemic tunes of Michael Stipe and co but the Rapid Eye Movement phase, this is generally where dreams happens (actual in your head dreams not like your dreams become reality) and interestingly your brain activity isnt far off when you’re awake, eyes are darting back and forth, breathing is a bit more irregular and that smart machine that is your body paralyses some muscle groups to stop you trying to make all of those dreams a reality.

The key thing to take note of that during Stages 3 + 4 mainly – the body is rebuilding itself, now if you’ve been training hard – that is breaking your body down (thats the idea of training) but to actually get the benefit of the training you need to let it recover and build itself back up stronger.  If you are training hard repeatedly but not getting enough quality sleep then as the saying goes you really are flogging a dead horse.

What happens when you dont sleep

We’ll cover the sweet benefits of sleep shortly, but like all good advertising campaigns we want this one to be built with an undercurrent of fear as well, so here’s some of the joyous effects of burning the midnight oil (thats a phrase, we will not be discussing what happens when you light up Peter Garrett)   So there are some fairly obvious effects of not getting enough sleep, the well duh one is tiredness but here are some slightly more interesting and scary ones

  • lower sex drive – if you’re not sleeping then you’re probably not in bed anyway but lack of sleep can lead to lower levels of testosterone, but sleep deprivation can also mean that you’re too damn tired to be interested in sex or too irritable for anyone to want to sleep with you anyway. Get more sleep. Get more action.
  • weight gain – just because you’re running around like a mofo 17 hrs a day doesnt automatically make you slim, again there is a lot of hormone regulation that goes on during sleep and skip out on it and you risk increased coritsol levels (stress hormone) which causes all sorts of unpleasantness + appetite regulation is likely to be out of wack and possible cause cravings amongst other things. Get more sleep, get more ripped
  • stupidity – when you are sleep deprived you’re probably not going to be the mentally sharpest tool the shed that day but its also going to mess up your ability to learn things effectively – its during sleep that memories are consolidated, dont sleep enough and you may have just wasted your time attending that course (that you might have ironically fallen asleep during anyway) Get more sleep, get more smart
  • death – so this is a fairly major one that most of us are reasonably focussed on avoiding or at least delaying for as long as possible.  Put simply the longer you trundle through life not getting enough sleep that higher the chance that you will die sooner – whether it be from an accident caused by your sleep deprived mind or from your increased risk of cardiovascular disease or the diabetes from the weight gain, I think you get the idea.  Get more sleep, be less dead.

So flipping it around from the previous section, what are the benefits of a good nights sleep

  • healthier – your immune system is going to be functioning better and your body will actually get a chance to heal itself so you will get less sick, less often
  • mood – if you’re getting enough sleep everything is going to be ticking along nicely and you will find yourself in a better mood, the hormones that make you not a grumpy bastard will get released and you will be generally more pleasant to be around, which in turn has a bunch of positive effects.
  • body composition (or swolatude) – I keep harping on this same point but seriously if you want to improve your body composition you need to be getting quality sleep to allow the body to work with the quality work that you’re doing in the gym, train hard, sleep hard.
  • you’ll become a ninja (possibly) – a good nights sleep is going to keep your reaction time fast and if you want to be a ninja (really who doesnt?) then sleeping well is a necessity, failing wanting to be ninja having inproved reaction time also equates to making better decisions and faster, whether thats at work, at home or behind that wheel – thats a pretty good thing.

So you get the idea, sleeping = good, not sleeping = bad, how much is enough and how can you maximise the quality of your sleep – we all know there is a lot of difference between lying in bed during summer sweating and twitching all night and passing out solid for 9 hours.  In terms of how long, the general recommendation is in the 8 hour territory, this wont work for everyone and there have been people in history that have done amazing things on less sleep but before saying a) its impossible for you to get more than 5 hours sleep a night and b) saying that Leonardo slept for 10min a week think about what we said at the start of the article – ITS FREE, and we’ve just listed a stack of benefits for it, perhaps just maybe you should consider making the effort to get some more quality sleep, solving world hunger is hard, turning off Candy Crush Saga at 11:30pm is not.

A few simple ways you can improve quality of sleep –

  • have a routine at night that involves “winding down”, and try and avoid watching TV or using electronic devices in the period leading up to going to sleep, these things fire up brain activity that is not condusive to quality sleep
  • sleep in a DARK, cool room, the darker the better, than means even removing or blocking out the little LED’s that are on some devices (charging phones etc), its enough to upset the quality of your sleep
  • avoid caffeine later in the day, you might be able to sleep after a cup of joe but the caffeine is a stimulant and it is going to seriously effects the quality of the sleep, remember the gravy happens during the deep sleep phase
  • likewise with alcohol – sinking a few brews might make you pass out but the quality of sleep simply won’t be there as well
  • antidepressants – taking these will also affect the quality of the sleep your getting, funnily enough sleep deprivation can also be a trigger for depression, maybe get more sleep and kill two birds with one stone!

So there it is, if the content of the article didnt put you to sleep hopefully it is motivation for you to catch some more zzz’s tonight, its a great goal to include as part of the EGSGTG Challenge, its such a routine thing going to be bed, so be disciplined in trying to make positive changes and bear in mind it might take a little while for to adjust to the new routine – and once you do be prepared to reap the sweet rewards,  If you’re interested in further reading the bible on this stuff is Sleep, Sugar, Survival – TS Wiley, its a fantastic read that will REALLY make you want to get more sleep, the other good resource is Dave Asprey (the Bulletproof Coffee guy ironically) and there is a bit of online material where he discusses improving sleep and your life in general thru bio hacking here 

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