Level 2: Sleep
We sleep for 1/3 of our lives. That means 26 years of our lives is spent sleeping. The largest sleep study ever conducted on 1.1 million people shows that sleep quality is more important than sleep quantity.
REM sleep helps your brain consolidate memories.
Sleep helps your muscles and organs rest and recover.
Sleep cleanses your brain of toxins.
If you’re exercising, you need to sleep much more than a sedentary individual. Muscle tissue doesn’t repair unless you get adequate Delta (deep) sleep. A 20 minute workout can increase your sleep needs by over three hours. Sleep as long as you need if you’re exercising more than two times per week. This is not an area where you can afford to be reckless. Sleep deprivation can cause severe adrenal fatigue, cortisol imbalance, and long term neurological/endocrine damage. But having an extra 4 hours a day is priceless.
Benefits of Sleep (based off of scientific research)
The Mental Benefits of Sleep
One night of good sleep can improve your ability to learn new motor skills by 20%
Eight hours of quality sleep increases your ability to gain new insight into complex problems by 50%
The Physical Benefits of Sleep
Good sleep promotes skin health and a youthful appearance
Sleep increases testosterone levels
Sleep controls optimal insulin secretion
Sleep encourages healthy cell division (helps prevent cancer)
Sleep increases athletic performance
10 More Benefits
Poor sleep can make you fat. Short sleep duration is associated with a drastically increased risk of weight gain and obesity, in both children and adults.
Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories. Poor sleep affects hormones that regulate appetite. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who don’t.
Good sleep can improve concentration and productivity. Good sleep can maximize problem solving skills and enhance memory. Poor sleep has been shown to impair brain function.
Good sleep can maximize athletic performance. Longer sleep has been shown to improve many aspects of athletic and physical performance.
Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke. Sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. A review of 15 studies found that short sleepers are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night
Sleep affects glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk. Sleep deprivation can cause pre-diabetes in healthy adults, in as little as 6 days. Many studies show a strong link between short sleep duration and type 2 diabetes risk. In a study of healthy young men, restricting sleep to 4 hours per night for 6 nights in a row caused symptoms of pre-diabetes. This was then resolved after 1 week of increased sleep duration.
Poor sleep is linked to depression. Poor sleeping patterns are strongly linked to depression, particularly for those with a sleeping disorder. It has been estimated that 90% of patients with depression complain about sleep quality. Poor sleep is even associated with increased risk of death by suicide. Those with sleeping disorders, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without.
Sleep improves your immune function. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep can improve immune function and help fight the common cold. One large 2-week study monitored the development of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with the virus that causes colds. They found that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more. If you often get colds, ensuring that you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night could be very helpful. Eating more garlic can help too.
Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation. Sleep affects the body’s inflammatory responses. Poor sleep is strongly linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and can increase the risk of disease recurrence. In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, in disorders known as inflammatory bowel diseases. One study observed that sleep deprived patients with Crohn’s disease were twice as likely to relapse as patients who slept well.
Sleep affects emotions and social interactions. Sleep loss reduces our ability to interact socially. Several studies confirmed this using emotional facial recognition tests. One study found that people who had not slept had a reduced ability to recognize expressions of anger and happiness. Researchers believe that poor sleep affects our ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.
Free Easy Basic Sleep Tips
Make your room as dark as possible. Unplug everything that glows, cover your windows with black curtains. Seriously, if you live in a city, you need blackout curtains that don’t allow in all the light pollution. Cover LEDs with black electrical tape. Your bedroom may look like it belongs to the Unabomber, but you’ll sleep like a baby.
Avoid bright lights and use F.lux on your computer
Use low-blue lighting two hours before bed
Don’t turn on lights at night. If you have to get up from sleep to use the bathroom or for other reasons, do not turn on bright lights. Instead, use a flashlight or plan ahead and place red/orange night-lights in appropriate places in your home.
Develop a bedtime routine that starts about 2 hours before bed, and start eliminating glowing screens then. Start winding down at least two hours before bed. This means less bright lighting at night, as well eliminating, or at least dimming, computer screens and TVs.
Third, though it may seem obvious, caffeine is not a sleep aid – stop drinking it by 2:00 p.m. each day, or at least 8 hours prior to bedtime (earlier if you’re sensitive to it). As much as you love your energy jolt from coffee, stop drinking it around 2 p.m
Don’t exercise within 2 hours before you go to bed.
Go to bed by 11:00 p.m. when possible because your body creates a cortisol surge after 11 p.m. to keep you awake.
Sleeping in artificial light from street lamps, televisions, and night lights has been proven to be harmful in mice, hamsters, and birds, and it may be the case for humans too. Exposure to light either while sleeping or before sleep is thought to throw off circadian rhythms.
Seek light when you wake up. Bright light — ideally sunlight — when you wake up will help your body set its internal clock, especially if you keep a consistent wake time.
Sleep in complete silence. It is really important that when you are sleeping, there should be no noise whatsoever. No buzzing of computer or appliances, no ticking of clocks, no cellphone etc. The quieter it is, the better quality of sleep you will experience. I should point out that it is ok to listen to a relaxation course for example. Just do not put it on repeat for the whole night.
Sleep when you are actually tired. If you missed your opportunity to fall asleep and are lying in bed for 45 minutes or more and still aren't tired, chances are you missed your opportunity. Your body has already released a surge of cortisol to keep you awake. Instead of stressing in bed for hours you can get up and try to do something relaxing for 1.5 hours and try again
Food And Sleep Tips
Avoid big meals right before bed
No food 2-3 hrs before bedtime. Eating too close to your bedtime is just going to either give you indigestion, make you gain weight (due to increased calories from snacking), or give you poor sleep with nightmares. There is no point in going to bed full, a snack is enough to calm your hunger. Plus, you will wake up with an appetite for a good solid breakfast, which is a good thing.
Drink water. A trick I learned a long time ago, was that by drinking water before sleep, you remember your dreams more vividly. As well, you tend to experience happier dreams and less confusing ones or nightmares. When you wake up in the morning, you should drink some water rather quickly to hydrate your body, which helps waking up, so I always keep a glass of water near my bed, from which I drink a little before going to sleep. I find a little water helps into experiencing a better night of sleep overall.
Eat low-mercury fish and seafood at dinner, or take krill/fish oil 2 hours before bedtime: omega-3′s aid in your sleep processes, and krill/fish oil in particular works in the brain because its omega-3 is bound to phospholipids. It helps with my sleep. More fat keeps your energy level stable for longer, and it takes energy to sleep efficiently.
Avoid having a bed time snack of refined grains or sugars. These are metabolic disruptors which raise blood sugar and overstress the organs involved in hormone regulation throughout the body. This hormone roller coaster can affect sleep cycles by waking you up at odd times during sleep as the hormone levels fluctuate.
Solution: If you have to eat, have a high-protein snack. It is better not to have anything before bed but at least a high protein snack will not only prevent the hormone roller coaster, but also may provide L-tryptophan, an amino acid needed to produce melatonin.
Try up to 1 Tbsp of raw honey before bed on an empty stomach. Your brain uses liver glycogen (carb storage) at night, and raw honey replenishes this supply and can create stable glucose levels for hours.
Some people have improved their sleep by taking 1-2 tablespoons of Collagen protein before bed. If you are short on amino acids, the enzymatically processed protein does not require digestion the same way that normal proteins do.
Reminder: coffee before 2:00 p.m. or more than 8 hours before bedtime! Coffee is awesome but it doesn’t make sense to ruin your sleep with it.
Consider taking supplements like magnesium, collagen and krill/Fish oil, all of which can improve your sleep in different ways.
Health Problems Caused By Insufficient Sleep
Imbalanced hormones – This lack of predictability prevents the body from settling into a pattern and causes disruptions in hormones. One of these hormones is melatonin, which is secreted after the sun sets. Melatonin is responsible for making us feel sleepy and for improving mood. If we produce less of it, either through exposure to artificial light before bedtime or through the glow of lights during the evening, we set ourselves up for myriad health problems.
Impaired immune system – Studies have shown that the antibody response to viruses is double in individuals who get adequate sleep than in those who don’t.
Possible weight gain – When a person is sleep deprived, the body produces less of the hormone leptin (responsible for feeling satiated after we eat) and more of the hormone ghrelin (which makes us feel hungry). This can lead to overeating and weight-gain.
Forgetfulness and impaired creativity – The hippocampus must be excited for the best mental performance. When the body is deprived of sleep, and the hippocampus is fatigued, creativity and memory are impaired.
Depression – Mice have been shown to exhibit depression when not given the opportunity to escape light.
Increased diabetes risk – Studies have shown that less than 6 hours of sleep can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Breast cancer – Night shift workers are more than 60% more likely to get breast cancer. Melatonin, which is produced in the dark of night, impedes the growth of cancer.
Increased risk of injury in children – Children who get less than nine hours of sleep or who are not rested due to waking in the night or not sleeping soundly are more prone to injury. While kids may seem perfectly energetic, lack of quality sleep will render them clumsy.