Sleep Is Your Secret Weapon

Sleep Is Your Secret Weapon

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You may think you are getting enough sleep, but are you?Office life

Are you getting enough sleep? Is your spouse getting enough sleep? Are your kids, your co-workers and your friends getting enough sleep? I only ask because it may be the most important question you can ask yourself.

You see, the amount sleep you are getting and quality of your sleep impacts every aspect of your life.

It’s estimated that 60 percent of Canadian adults are not getting enough sleep. We’re averaging 6.9 hours of sleep a night, which is well below the recommended eight hours. Research also indicates that 30 percent of adults are getting less than six hours of sleep a night and 40 percent of children are not getting enough sleep—impairing not only their growth and development, but also their ability to learn.

In the health and performance world, there are strong links between sleep and brain function, as well as mental health and obesity. Sleep has strong links to colds and flu, heart disease, performance at work, sport performance and injury rates.

To give you an idea of how missing sleep might impact you and those around you, here is some compelling sleep data:

  • After a night without sleep, our ability to memorize word lists drops 40 percent.
  • After a night of quality sleep, memory improves 20 to 30 percent
  • Virginia Tech researchers did a study on what causes car crashes. They allowed subjects only four hours of sleep for five nights. Researchers were stunned to find a cumulative impairment in the subject’s ability to think fast, to react quickly and to remember things. The impairment started immediately upon missing the first period of sleep.
  • Not sleeping for 20 hours is the equivalent of having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent—well over the limit where a driver is classified as legally impaired.
  • Food or Sleep? Starvation is fatal in two weeks, but sleep deprivation has been shown to be fatal in only 10 days.
  • Humans are the only mammals on the planet who self-induce a sleep deficit. 

We know there are many circumstances that may lead you to lose sleep. So, should you be worried about how much sleep you are getting, or not getting on any given night – no not at all. Missing a few hours of sleep on one or two nights is very manageable.

Block Your Sleep

Take your nightly amount of recommended sleep and look at it from a weekly perspective – a weekly block of sleep. For example, if you require eight hours of sleep in a night, over seven nights you will need to get in 56 hours of sleep. If you find yourself missing a few hours here or there, no problem, make it up by adding a few extra hours of sleep the following night or plan strategic naps. The end game is to get your 56 hours of sleep in over the course of the week.

Naps and Sleep Extension

Napping may be one of the best ways to keep your sleep strategy on track. For our performance programs we schedule a regular daily nap time whenever we can, but napping has to be done correctly.

If you want to nap like a pro, plan your nap time between 2:00 and 4:00pm, it’s an optimal time to boost energy and alertness in order to finish the day strong and its early enough in the day not to interfere with night time sleep patterns. Your nap should be 15 – 30 minutes in length and this can vary from person to person so you may need to experiment to find out what works for you. If you find you have extended grogginess or disorientation after your nap, a condition called Sleep Inertia, you may want to adjust the time of your nap and/or the length of your nap.

A good nap can be all powerful. In fact a NASA nap study on military pilots and astronauts revealed that 40 minute naps improved observed performance by 34 percent and alertness by 100 percent.

“A lack of sleep has a major impact on how our bodies process and utilize food and energy.”

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Sleep extension

Sleep extension is another strategy for boosting performance. Very simply, plan for more sleep. If it is recommended that you should be getting eight hours of sleep, so plan for 10. This strategy for sleep management can also be very powerful.

The benefits of sleep extension have been shown time and time again by researchers at Stanford University, who increased the sleep periods of varsity athletes to at least 10 hours a night for a duration of five to seven weeks. The extra sleep and rest resulted in personal best performances, faster sprint times, improved shooting accuracy and improved ratings of overall physical and mental well-being.

Naps and sleep extension strategies can be used by everyone, the important key here is to have your foundation set up in a daily and weekly sleep plan. Your foundation will provide the guidelines for you to make proper adjustments in your sleep strategies.

Could less sleep be contributing to the epidemic of obesity?

As we work to uncover the secrets of what exactly happens when we sleep, it has been found that a lack of sleep has a major impact on how our bodies process and utilize food and energy. Strong evidence has been found linking lack of sleep with increased weight gain and obesity.

In one sleep study, healthy fit adults were only allowed four hours of sleep for six nights. The findings showed:

  • Subjects were in a pre-diabetic state
  • They were more hungry, despite having plenty of food
  • Glucose metabolism slowed 30-40 percent
  • All of which can result in increased fat storage

Here is a list of things you can go through to help you get the good nights sleep you need:

Block your Sleep: Take your recommended amount of nightly sleep and put it together in a weekly block of sleep time. This way you don’t have to worry about missing an hour or two from day to day, just remain focused on your weekly sleep goals.

Keep a Sleep Log: Write down the amount and quality of your nightly sleep. This will allow you to balance and plan your weekly sleep strategy. Keeping a detailed sleep log for a minimum of 10 days can reveal sleep patterns and habits that may be keeping you from getting a quality sleep.

Set Your Routine: It’s important to wake up and go to bed at consistent times each day, even on the weekends. Also, give yourself plenty of time to wind down and relax before bed. Reading in soft light with relaxing music can be very effective

Avoid Technology: Put the phones away! Yes, it has been shown that the light from smart phones and laptops can interfere with the onset of melatonin (sleep hormone). But, it is the activity in the brain that may be even more detrimental to getting a good nights sleep. So shut down the texts, Candy Crush, Gods of War or whatever game you might be playing two hours before you go to bed – this is mandatory for all of our high performance athletes.

Environment: Make your bedroom a good place to be. Keep it cool, dark and comfortable. Invest in a good mattress and great pillows: no work desk; no television; and no workout equipment. Your bedroom should be set up for only two things—sleep and sex.

Exercise: Regular exercise will help you sleep better, but remember don’t exercise too close to your bedtime. And whatever you do, do not cut into your sleep to get in a early morning workout – sleep is priority number one!!

Trouble Sleeping: If you have made and followed a sleep plan and are still having trouble getting a good night’s sleep whatever you do, do not start to self-medicate using sleep aids to sleep or stimulants to stay awake. This often turns into a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation. If you are having sleep issues don’t hesitate to see your doctor or seek out a sleep professional.

Sixty percent of Canadians are not getting enough sleep.”

So, get your sleep. Get the right amount of sleep and the right quality of sleep.

Good health and top performance for all.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The National Sleep Foundation Recommends the following Guidelines for the general public:

New Born

0-3 Months

14-17 Hours

Infant

4-11 Months

12-15 Hours

Toddler

1-2 Years

11-14 Hours

Preschool

3-5 Years

10-13 Hours

School Age

6-13 Years

9-11 Hours

Teenager

14-17 Years

8-10 Hours

Young Adult

18-25 Years

7-9 Hours

Adult

26-64 Years

7-9 Hours

Older Adult

> 65 Years

7-8 Hours

 

For athletes and active people, due to the extra stress of training and competition, Canada Sport for Life has ingenuously set age related Sleep Guidelines for optimum recovery and recuperation:

Active Start

0-6 Years

13-16 Hours

Fundamentals

Females 6-8 Years

Males 6-9 Years

10-11 Hours with 30 min

nap between 2-4 pm

Learn to Train

Females 8-11 Years

Males 9-12 Years

9.5-10 Hours with 30 min

nap between 2-4 pm

Train to Train

Females 11-15 Years

Males 12-16 Years

9 Hours with 30 min

nap between 2-4 pm

Train to Compete

Females 15-21 Years

Males 16-23 Years

8-10 Hours with 30 min

nap between 2-4 pm

Train to Win

Females 18+ Years

Males 19+ Years

8-10 Hours with 30 min

nap between 2-4 pm

Active for Life

Any age Participant

7-9 Hours with 30 min

nap between 2-4 pm

 
Jeff Krushell
Jeff is regarded as an expert in the area of talent development, where he has gained unique insights into the process of improving performance. Formerly the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Toronto Blue Jays and is now the Strength and Performance consultant for Major League Baseball International. He also lectures and speaks internationally and hosts Krush Performance Radio on TSN 1260, which has allowed him to forge relationships with athletes, coaches, sport scientists, doctors, business specialists and researchers. krushperformance.com

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