Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stop hitting snooze... get some real sleep!

     *Yawn* I'm sorry readers, I didn't get too much sleep last night. Which is a shame, because a good night's sleep is one of the easiest tools we have in our recovery kit. Is 5 hours, like my last night, enough? ... very doubtful. How much we need to sleep is determined by a few factors including age, sex (pregnancy), and activity level.

     So how much sleep is good sleep? statistically speaking the average adult needs between 7-9 hours, teenagers will need a 9 hours (but how often does that happen), pregnant women will need a few extra hours during the first trimester and an infants will need to take in a whopping 16 hours (and yet the parents sleep suffers).

     So let's talk briefly about the science of sleep. As you can see in the picture above we will go through 5 stages of sleep which averages out to be a 90 minute cycle. This cycle should be repeated 4-6 times throughout the night. I'll try not too get to dry in the explanations, I don't want to put you to sleep... or do I?

REM sleep vs. NREM sleep: simply put we will start in a NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) state and finish with... you guessed it a REM (Rapid Eye Movement) state.

Stage 1: This is our first NREM state, this is when you first fall asleep. Sleep will be light and you can easily be woken up. At this point our bodies are starting to sleep, eye movement is slowing down and our muscles are relaxing.

Stage 2: We are still in NREM, and sleep is still fairly light. However, the eye movement has completely stopped, respirations and body temperature decrease and brain waves slow. We are now making the transition to deep sleep.

Stage 3/4: These 2 stages mark the last of our NREM sleep. in Stage 3 we enter a deep sleep, brain waves becomes extremely slow (called Delta Waves). Stage 4 is our deepest level of sleep, and this is where our recovery comes into play. Our body will regenerate tissues, build bones and muscles and even strengthens our immune system. If you've ever been awoke from these stages you may have felt really out of it and disoriented.

Stage 5: Now we've reached our last stage in the sleep cycle and our only stage of REM sleep. Normally we will enter this state within 70-90 minutes after falling asleep. Breathing becomes irregular, heart rate and blood pressure increases and (for those of those following along) eye movement becomes rapid (hence REM). This is actually when we start to experience dreams, as our brain waves become highly active. The first cycle of REM may last roughly 10 minutes, and increases every time the entire cycle is repeated. Our final cycle may last up to an hour!

     Ok, I hope I haven't lost anyone yet. Now you are armed with the knowledge of you sleep. More importantly, you need some tools to increase your hours of sleep, or make it easier to finally get to sleep. So just try some of these:

  • Have a bedtime: It's a lot easier to fall asleep when your body is used to going to sleep at the same time. Just like we train to squat below parallel, we need to train to get to bed before 10 pm.
  • Set the alarm: Just like being used to falling asleep at the same time, we have to get used to getting up at the same time. This way our bodies now know how much time they have to sleep.
  • Avoid food/drinks/tobacco: Don't overwhelm your body before it's time to sleep. When you eat and sleep your body is focused on digesting, instead of on sleeping. And when we used tobacco before sleep (which we shouldn't anyways) our body will go through a withdrawal, which makes it a lot harder to find sleep.
  • Sleep in you bed: Avoid falling asleep on the couch/floor/car and use your bed what its for. At the same time, just use your bed for sleep. Avoid bringing work into bed with you, as they will take the focus away from falling asleep.
  • Control your environment: The best place to sleep is in a dark, cool and quiet spot. The less you have around to take focus off of sleep, the easier it will be to pass out for the night.

     You have the knowledge and the power to control a great night's sleep. I shouldn't see anyone getting sleepy mid-WOD (if that's even possible). So have a good night everybody!

"There is only one thing people like that is good for them; a good night's sleep."      
     Edgar Watson Howe


  1. I just tin foiled the windows in my bedroom and stuff a towel at the bottom of the door for as much darkness as possible for sleep. Sleeps been getting better. I drink so much water throughout the day that i've been trying to counter getting up all night to pee.

  2. I bet you use the tin foil your windows just so the aliens don't steal your thoughts. I'm onto your conspiracy theory ways!