How Important Is Sleep?
When you are a fitness professional, you get asked the same questions on a daily basis. How do I add more muscle? How do I burn more fat? How do I lose more weight? What sort of pre-workout supplement can I take? and so on. I have never been asked how to sleep better though, so it prompted me to dive into the world of sleep to find out what benefits on exercise, if any, we are afforded. Get your coffee and favorite chair ready, cuz here we go!
If You Don't Sleep You Die
"I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?" -Ernest Hemmigway
In one study, researchers rigged a contraption that woke rats up as soon as they fell asleep. It took three weeks for the rats to die using this contraption. Human beings actually suffer from two diseases, fatal familial insomnia, a mutation that causes progressively worse insomnia, and eventually death in a few months, and Morvan's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that destroys the potassium channels in the brain which leads to severe insomnia and eventually death as well. Pulled an all nighter and plan on going about your day because "only the strong survive?" Going 24 hours without sleep equates to the brain function after taking 3 shots of hard liquor. You process slower, your reaction time diminishes, and you send your hormonal system into chaos.
Sleep disorders add $16 billion dollars to national health care costs each year, and sleep deprived caused accidents in the workplace add another $134 billion. Is sleep important? HELL YES! But why? Sleep is important for two reasons:
1. The brain clears up cellular garbage when you sleep.
2. The body repairs itself while you sleep.
In the book A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy scientists built the greatest computer in the universe. When they turned it on they asked the computer, "who is the greatest computer in the universe?" And the computer responded, "The next computer you build." The scientists were horrified because that is not what they expected to hear, but the computer was right. You see, after a long day of trivial tasks, your brain is full of bits and pieces of information. Some need to be organized and kept, some need to be thrown out. Your brain is the best computer in the world...... tomorrow! Not today. If we don't sleep we eventually lose space to store new information. When this happens our body begins to malfunction in the following ways:
As CrossFitters, if we are not sleeping enough, we are not helping our body release growth hormone and testosterone to repair the damage we did to our muscles. So next time you try to train on 2 hours of sleep, know you are shrinking your brain, shrinking your muscles, and making yourself sick!
How much sleep do we need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep, and children between the age of 10-17 should get 8.5-9.5 hours per night! Oddly, for adults, sleeping more than 9 hours is related to increased risk of chronic disease, and a shorter life. Check out these stats on sleep deprivation and performance:
Lets face it, wodding is a little more demanding than tennis or your regular LA Fitness workout, so sleep, and getting enough sleep should be a huge priority, if not the number one priority!
How Do We Improve Our Sleep?There are several ways to improve sleep. Some of them are cheap and easy to take advantage of. Others are quite advanced, and require a hefty investment. All have been proven to work. I took the liberty of tracking down the best products to take the guess work out for you. If you are interested in trying something out, click on the link to make a purchase.
1. Magnesium Citrate - Magnesium has personally helped Jackie and I sleep better. The harder you train, the more you lose, most people are deficient in it! There are magnesiums pills I recommend, and a topical spray if you are not into taking pills. Take 400-1,000mg a day.
Magnesium pills - http://amzn.to/1Hi4kMN
Magnesium Spray - http://amzn.to/1LYu7Qw
2. Potassium Citrate - Potassium citrate is another mineral that becomes vacant in the body due to the crap food we eat that will cause restlessness when we sleep. Take 400-500mgs with the magnesium before bedtime. If you get a loose stool, back off and use a lower dose.
Potassium citrate Pills - http://amzn.to/1IS4ORc
3. MCT Oil - This will work really well for you if food craving keep you awake, or if you wake up in the middle of the night feeling super hungry on occasion. MCT oil can not be stored in the body so it gets burned slowly while you sleep regulating blood sugar. Take two to three tablespoons before bed.
MCT Oil - http://amzn.to/1JZodub
4. Melatonin - Melatonin is only released in the body when we sleep in a pitch black room. Since most of us don't we do not produce enough to keep us sleeping. Melatonin is most famous for being our natural anti-cancer drug. Jackie and I take 5mg on MOST nights and it works like a charm.
Melatonin caps - http://amzn.to/1OXoouo
5. Binaural Beats - This works through brain wave entrainment, meaning it brings your brain wave frequencies into step with a specific frequency. Anxiety is usually what keeps us up at night, worried about what happened that day, or what will happen tomorrow. For 99 cents you can buy an mp3 that breaks you out of the anxiety frequency and into sleep mode. This is not science fiction, it actually works!
Binaural beats - http://amzn.to/1IS8T87
Earth Pulse - Now for the biggie. The earth emits a natural magnetic frequency that assists with our natural sleep cycle, our hormonal cycle, and our ability to naturally alleviate stress. This is called grounding. The problem is we wear shoes with rubber soles on them 90% of the day which disconnects us from the earth. Then we can't fall asleep at night. The earth pulse machine is placed under your bed and emits this frequency to help you sleep. Every team on the Tour De France uses an earth pulse to recover faster, and sleep on grounding mats as well. The only down side is these gadgets are pricey. If you have the resources I highly recommend you buy it, there is a 90 day money back guarantee!
Earth pulse - http://amzn.to/1Hikhmb
That about wraps it up guys. I really hope you take some of these things into consideration, and that it helps you live a fuller, richer life!
1. Greenfield, Ben. Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life. Victory Belt Publishing Apr. 2014. 480pp.
Chris Kidawski has been a Strength and Conditioning coach for the past 16 years. He has coached and trained in almost all facets of the health and fitness industry, from physical therapy, to personal training in a global gym, to improving the performance of high school, collegiate, and professional athletes, and now owns and operates the #1 CrossFit facility in South Florida for Mobility with his wife, Jackie, CrossFit Kismet. You can learn more about him by going to www.crossfitkismet.com, and you can sign up for his newsletter by going to http://crossfitkismet.com/contact-us/ and entering your e-mail with the subject line "Newsletter!"
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Scott Rusin is the Director of Physical Therapy at the Sandestin Executive Health & Wellness Center in Sandestin Resort, Miramar Beach, FL. He has a degree in Physical Therapy, is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Nike Golf NG360 Performance Specialist Powered by the Gray Institute.