No This is Not a Dream: Avoid Lack of Sleep and Live Longer
Beep…beep…beep. Ugh! Groggy! No! All of this equals a lame feeling you know all too well: a lack of sleep.
That is the terrible sound of the alarm.
It shakes you awake. You are groggy, everything is blurry and you stumble out of bed. You long for more sleep, but you know it is time to go. You have to fight through this early haze.
Some of you solve it with coffee, others with a shower. This is normal right? You should feel horrible when you wake up early in the morning right? (This is me leaning in to whisper in your ear) No you don’t…
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of getting in shape. You can’t get enough and you if you want to get in great shape you need to get a good amount of it. If you follow some of these steps we are going to talk about, it will make a difference in your health and how fast you achieve your goals.
The Importance of Sleep
Now “crappy sleep” doesn’t come only in the form of getting to bed late, or waking up in the middle of the night. There are other forms as well. Bad sleep can also come in the form of waking up early. That is right. The early bird gets more than just the worm; it also gets the cortisol spiking.
While getting up early to workout may seem noble, you are better off getting in your 8-9 hours of sleep (or whatever your body tells you) and working out later in the day, than getting 4-6 hours of sleep and working out early. Cortisol is a hormone that is unleashed as we get stressed. Often less sleep means more stress. This also means your body potentially retains more fat or loses muscle. Lack of sleep and weight gain go hand in hand.
Since lack of sleep promotes high levels of the hormone cortisol, it is just as harmful as high levels of grains and sugars for our body. It has the same effects on our body. As we mentioned cortisol promotes higher insulin levels because of higher blood sugar levels. High cortisol levels impacts your leptin sensitivity.
What is leptin? It is another hormone that helps to control your hunger. Without it, you find yourself eating more. So not only are you retaining more fat, but you want more food, namely fat producing carbs. All of this leads to more and more obesity. Obesity in turn means a higher chance of metabolic syndrome: heart disease, cancer, advanced aging, lost memories, and the list goes on.
The crazy thing is that this whole process doesn’t take much to start. Just one night of crappy sleep can put you in the same insulin sensitivity boat as someone with Type 2 Diabetes. One night!
Lack of sleep also goes hand in hand with stress. More sleep deprivation, means more stress and mood swings. More stress leads to…you guessed it…even less sleep and poor cortisol levels. Again both of stress and lack of sleep are gateway drugs toward major health problems known as metabolic syndrome. You can’t forget that our bodies were designed with over billions of years of ancestry DNA begging to get sound sleep in pitch black conditions. Our ancestors slept in dark cool conditions for at least 8-10 hours each night.
Got shift work? Well do what you can to change this. Recently the CDC mentioned that shift work and the crazy hours of sleep can actually be as deadly as cigarette smoke. This makes it hard to get the most from your fitness and nutrition. We don’t realize how the long term effects of lack of sleep can be so dangerous to our health.
Symptoms of Lack of Sleep
The results of lack of sleep can be rather draining. You may have noticed some of these issues or lack of sleep symptoms.
Tired and Wired: Normally our cortisol levels lower as we get later in the evening. As our cortisol levels go haywire we get those rough midday crashes followed by nightly evenings of restless sleep. We are less effective each day because we are walking around like zombies trying to make it through the day with little productivity.
Loading Up: We try to counter it with stimulants and depressants depending on the time of the day, but it only goes so far. The problem is that these drugs wear off over time and your body becomes more tolerant to it. You then need more and more to get your boost. Eventually they become required just to function. Sadly, they only mask a growing problem.
Hello Viagra: Testosterone and cortisol work inversely of each other. So as cortisol levels raise with lack of sleep, this means that testosterone decreases. Testosterone also gets converted to estrogen as we grow fatter. This all means impotence and infertility. This might not be one of the effects of lack of sleep that you would expect.
To avoid these lack of sleep side effects there are a few things you can do to put yourself in the best sleep conditions. So what are the best conditions for you to sleep to get the most out of your day, avoid those crashes, and make the most of your nutrition and fitness?
8-9 Hours: In order to sleep well you have to get 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep. The most important thing is being able to sleep comfortably, consistently through the night. If you can, allow for your body to wake up without an alarm clock. Sleep as much as you can without getting a marriage separation or fired from your job. Naps can help, but it doesn’t make up for those 8-10 hours of consistent sleep.
Dark and Cool: In order to have optimal sleep, you should sleep in pitch black conditions with no light. This means no light coming from TVs, alarm clocks, night lights, computers, hallway lights seeping into the room, sun, or whatever source possible. Light exposure attacks the hormone melatonin and can lead to more problems with cortisol and stress. Deep levels of sleep can be disrupted by these devices. Also cool temperature is helpful as well in maintaining your cortisol levels. The cool temperature is important to help steady your cortisol levels.
I Can’t Afford that Much Sleep!
I understand this may eat into your time you could spend working, working out, hanging out with friends, networking for your business, spending time with family, etc. It is a difficult pill to swallow when you think of how clogged your life is.
Ask yourself a question, “Would you rather have a high quality of life with 1-2 less waking hours in a day or would you rather have those extra 2 hours being awake, but be in a miserable mood?” Some of you may choose the miserable mood and that is weird, but fine.
Then you have to ask yourself another question, “Do the hours I give up now, give me more quality hours alive down the road?” We talked about how this all leads to obesity, heart disease, cancer, advanced aging, etc. The evidence is piling up against you on this one.
Don’t be weird. Live a longer and more enjoyable life without the side effects of lack of sleep. So get some sleep.
I Have a Job that Doesn’t Allow for It!
If this is the case, well with all due respect reconsider your job and how important it is. I know we live in a tough economy and giving up a job is easier said than done, but don’t live your life with regrets. Find a job that gets you what you want in your life.
As we grow older, we seem to lose faith in our ability and buy into a certain society lifestyle norms. We are afraid to give up our jobs. Just ask yourself, “If I am in my dying bed, is this how I will say I have wanted to live my life? Will I be a dying old person filled with regret?”
You may even love your job, and that is awesome. I love mine. Just make sure that your job helps to promote every other important aspect of your life. Figure out how to fit it around your life, instead of trying to mold your life around work. Maybe…just maybe..you will love your job even more.
If you can’t leave your job or adjust your schedule, then try to get simply as much sleep as you can and create some sort of a pattern that you can comfortably sleep for as many hours as needed. Also make sure your vitamin D levels are solid and feel free to use melatonin (1/4 mg to 4 mg) to help with your sleep cycles. Avoid sleep pills whenever possible, which doesn’t really promote a true, deep state of sleep.
The bottom line is sleep is important. Don’t sacrifice it. Get as much as you can in a dark, cool environment. Create your cave and hibernate like a champ. If you can do this, it will help you live longer and make all the difference in how fulfilled your life is.