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  • Alison Synakowski

Sleep: The greatest performance enhancing “drug”?

In my little world, I see two types of people. 1 = I need my sleep , 2 = I am just fine without sleep. In my house - I am the one that feels just fine with minimal sleep, but is that really an achievement? No, not at all. Quite frankly, I feel fine with little sleep, mentally. Physically, sleep impacts my body. Having twin boys, I was fine getting very little sleep and could get through my days without much of a glitch - mentally. Physically was a different story - lack of desire/energy to exercise, difficulty losing weight, decreased overall energy. So let’s talk about sleep and all the good it does and common questions.

Why is sleep important?

Simply put - to recover. Sleep is needed to allow the body to recover from physical and mental stresses that come our way everyday. Hormones such as HGH (human growth hormone) surgery throughout the night. This hormone is instrumental in healing, growth, and facilitating other hormones in the body. If you are not getting enough sleep - you are not allowing HGH to fully do it’s job.

Sleep effects other areas that are important to maintain health. Lack of sleep is associated with poorer nutritional choices / good sleep patterns associated with making better nutritional decisions on a daily basis. Crazy right. If you sleep better, you eat better = better health.

Furthermore- there are studies that also link sleep deprivation to type-2 diabetes due to the hormones needed for glucose (i.e. sugar) metabolism (breakdown)/. Even risk of heart disease and stroke are increased with sleep deprivation.

Cognitive function and performance slow with sleep deprivation. REM (rapid eye movement or “deep sleep”) is associated with learning and memory.

Those that are physically active — will be limited if not now, eventually — by lack of sleep.

How much sleep do I need?

Adults tend to need 7-9 hours of sleep. Teenagers 9-10 hours of sleep.

Symptoms of being sleep deprived include

Memory issues, depression, lack of motivation, increased pain, low sex drive, weight gain, bad decision-making, increased chance of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, irritability.

Does your mattress matter?

It can! There are actually many research studies looking at the effects of a quality mattress - and they do continue to conclude that a mattress can certainly make a difference with the ability to sleep through the night and the ability to reduce pain at night (especially chronic low back pain). A quality mattress does NOT replace eating well or exercising regularly - but it certainly can improve quality of sleep.

How to improve your sleep

  • Go to f*cking sleep. Reduce temptation to stay awake and “veg out”. (This is the tough one for me - when my kids finally go to bed I like to just sit down with no noise!)

  • Be active - the more you move in a day - the better your sleep

  • Routine is helpful - go to bed and get up at the same time.

  • Do some type of light movement before bed

  • Reduce electronic use before bed

  • Reduce water intake in the last couple hours of the day - hydrate throughout the day.

Sleep is a foundational activity for our bodies and recovery. If you find yourself struggling through a day - of course I think activity/exercise is a strong #1 issue, but sleep is #1a. Sleep allows the body to recover and make better choices in a day.

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