The Importance of Sleep

This week I join a brotherhood, a fraternity, an elite group of men given the duty to raise a good, honest human being.  I became a father for the first time.  I have to say, I have acquired three undergraduate degrees and a masters degree, numerous certifications but I would hand them all in for the feeling that I had the day that Anna was born.  It was the most special time I have ever had sitting on a labour room couch bonding with a one hour old newborn in your arms.  But with great power come great responsibility… and a new level of sleep debt.

I wish I had a reference for this fact so I am going to reference personal communication… myself.  For every year you attend post secondary education it requires six months of recovery.  Most of that due to a lack of quality sleep.  When I heard that I would require six years of recovery from my university career.  Now entering fatherhood that sleep debt will once again being to add up.  I have to say Pam (my lovely wife) and I have been rather lucky that Anna has been sleeping 3 hour blocks at night but it is early and I am sure that will change.  Let pray not.

Back on track.  Through our younger year, or drinking years, we figure we are young and we can sleep when we are dead.  We stay up later than we should be, and figure we can make it up by sleeping until the crack of four pm on the weekend.  Now a few hours later here and there is fine and, yes we could make that up on a Saturday or Sunday, possibly in the form of a nap on the couch with Simpsons on.  But we tend to accumulate many hours of sleep debt in a week.  We stay up too late and get up too early.  The typical person need between six and eight hours a sleep a night, but many of us push the lower end of the limit.

The following diagram is from the Holistic Life Coach Course by the CHEK institute.  Now this is the best diagram I have found to truly illustrate the importance of setting a bed time and sticking to it.

The disruption of our sleep patterns consequently disrupts our anabolic/ catabolic processes.   Between the times of 10:00 pm and 2:00 am the body goes through a process of physical repair.  Between roughly 2:00 am and 6:00 am the body will go through a process of psychological repair.  A disrupted sleep pattern will cause the Cortisol (red line) to elevate and affect the regenerative process.  So it is imperative that we get to bed around 10:00 to 11:00 pm and up between 6:00 to 7:00 am.

Disrupted sleep patterns affect many of the body’s processes.  The act of having a bowel movement is a Parasympathetic act.  But if our cortisol is elevated and we are in Sympathetic drive our bowl movement are disrupted.  We should be having movements on a regular consistent schedule.  If that schedule is off… how is your sleep?  We also know that an increase in cortisol affect short term memory.  So we stay up late and wonder why we are so forgetful in the morning.   The increased cortisol will also drive our adrenal system deeper in to exhaustion and corresponding HPA axis deregulation.

How do you combat this?

  • Listen to your father and mother… go to bed at your bed time.  No seriously, set a bed time and stick to it.  Head hits the pillow no later than 11:00 pm
  • No stimulating foods in the evening.
  • This one I really stress to my athletes.  No electrical devices by their beds (cell phones, televisions, alarm clocks, lap tops, etc).  Move them across the room.  And try to have your bed orientated North/  South.  I could try to explain electromagnetic fields and sleep disruption but that would take more research and that is a post for another day.

I want to stress, this are just suggestions.  This is your Journey, and I am here to foster education and learning.  Don’t go and try and change things all in one night.  Start off slow and see how you feel.  I can say from all the clients and athletes I have made these suggestions to, I have not heard of anyone not sleeping better.  Now, go have a good night’s rest.

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Sleep

  1. Pingback: The Importance of the Basics… again. « Deliberate Health and Performance

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