The Most Effective Steroid Available to Everyone: Sleep Your Way to a Six Pack (Part 1)Men who sleep 5-6 hours per night will have a testosterone level similar to someone ten years their senior. In other words, sleep deprivation has the potential to age you by almost a decade if you examined yourself with bloodwork. Not only that, one study found that dieters who slept 5.5 hours nightly lost 55% LESS fat and 60% more muscle when compared to those sleeping 8.5 hours nightly. While both groups were in a caloric deficit, the adequate sleep group retained twice as much muscle and lost double as much fat compared to those who were sleep deprived. Still think sleep doesn’t matter? Your hormones and body composition suggest otherwise.
Sleep Science Made SimpleSleep is complex and we don’t fully understand it (yet), but we’ll keep this discussion somewhat remedial and hopefully it will help you to understand the specific recommendations provided later.
There are 2 primary drivers of sleep:1. Sleep “Pressure” 2. Circadian Rhythms Sleep “Pressure” - This is essentially the feeling of fatigue you experience as the day wears on. Fatigue byproducts build up within the brain and as such, you experience an innate drive to sleep. As you sleep, those molecules are removed from their receptors and the feeling dissipates. However, if you delay sleep this can result in something known as “micro sleeps” where the brain involuntarily shuts down momentarily to force sleep upon the user - we typically refer to this phenomenon as “nodding off." Circadian Rhythms - Think of these like internal software for your brain’s operating system. These rhythms are your body’s way of trying to predict and adapt to the demands of the day. The body likes repeated patterns as it allows for greater efficiency. In the case of your sleep, cortisol tends to drive the awakening response whereas melatonin is what helps you feel sleepy. Here’s a visual representation which should help to lay things out a little more neatly:
Circadian Rhythm RegulatorsHave you ever noticed how certain things can make you feel more tired or awake than normal? There are a whole host of factors which influence the diurnal cortisol and melatonin curves shown above. Here are 3 of the primary regulators: 1. Temperature a. Note the temperature line on the graph above - as the day progresses, the sun sets, and temperatures drop. Now, outside of biological factors, this helps to induce sleep within humans as the brain needs to drop 2-3° to signal the onset of sleep. 2. Light a. Similarly, as the sun sets we find that the hue and intensity of light changes. The lux of light is reduced and the wavelength is shifted from blue to red/orange. This may seem trivial but is exceedingly important as blue light is more stimulatory and red light tends to be more relaxing. 3. Food a. There is a new, growing body of sleep research showing that food is a strong regulator of sleep/wake cycles. However, this can become an issue if someone is consuming very large meals right before bed - in fact, there has been some recent studies linking earlier dinners with a lowered risk of prostate and breast cancer. Pretty interesting stuff, eh?
Top 4 Suggestions to Improve Your Sleep TONIGHT1. Get 20-30 Minutes of Sunlight on Exposed Skin Daily Sunlight does much more than just help us get tan. Those who spent the least amount of time in the sun actually had the highest all-cause mortality rate (aka chance of death from any cause). Not only that, we need sunlight for endogenous vitamin D production and circadian regulation. You see, your skin cells contain their own peripheral “clocks” help to regulate circadian rhythms via exposure to high intensity blue light. Want to know the fastest way to jack up your circadian rhythms? Avoid the sun and blast yourself with blue light every night while cruising around Instagram. 2. Tweak These Settings on Your iPhone This one is pretty self-explanatory but if you don’t have night shift engaged, you need to get with it. It’s 2018 and blue light sucks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KubBgLNTw6g&t 3. Take a Warm Shower/Bath Think back to our circadian rhythm discussion from above. Your body needs a reduction in temperature to help promote the onset of sleep. However, in climate controlled environments, it’s very tough to encounter large temperature swings. As such, you may find it beneficial to utilize a warm shower or bath before going to bed. This essentially pushes your body temperature higher than normal for a transient period of time. If used prior to bed, it can help to facilitate a drop in temperature. Thus, it coaxes the brain towards a more relaxed state. 4. Darken and Dampen (Light and Sound) Even if you are not acutely aware of it, you should make every effort to keep the ambient noise within your environment consistent. So, if you live in a big city or near an interstate, a white noise machine or fan might be a wise investment along with some ear plugs. Also, you may want to consider an eye mask or blackout curtains. New research has shown that any light in the bedroom is probably a bad idea: “People that have even just a little bit of light while asleep (5 lux of light - equivalent to a streetlight) at night had a 65% increased chance of developing depression after two years.” You’re Not Special… If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this: “The # of individuals who can survive on 6hrs of sleep or less w/o showing any impairment, rounded to a whole number, and expressed as a percentage is ZERO (0%).” - Dr. Matthew Walker (Neuroscientist @ UC Berkley) You’re not a genetically elite snowflake who can survive on 4 hours of sleep and a daily double shot of espresso. Get off your phone and go to sleep.
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