We hear it all the time. “I didn’t sleep well.” Or, “I’m running on four hours of sleep.” Or we put shame on those who do get enough sleep. We assume a person who gets eight hours each night must not work that much, or be lazy, or not be busy with kids and a family, etc. Most of us view sleep as a luxury instead of a priority. It’s time to reverse the way we think about sleep and make it our top priority.
Yes, I think of sleep as an ergogenic aid (technique or substance used for the purpose of enhancing performance), more important than any nutritional supplement or performance-enhancing drug. It’s something that we must obtain not only if we want to lose weight and keep it off, but for our mental status, hormone function, physiological function, metabolism, and immune system.
I’ll admit, I’m one of those crazy individuals who wakes up at 4:15a.m. every weekday. Yes, you’re correct, that’s not a typo. I said 4:15a.m. I work out from 5a.m.-6a.m. before heading off to my dietetic internship. I always get that crazy look from people as they stutter out the words what, how, why? I usually smile and respond, “You know, I often ask myself those three questions as the alarm blares through my room at 4:15a.m.”But really the answer is quiet simple. You don’t need a pill, a special pillow, or yet another advertisement selling you something, you simply need quality and quantity sleep to be an early riser. I like to think of it as Q2S, quality and quantity sleep. Quality sleep includes both REM and non-REM cycles. Quantity sleep is achieving seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Although there is much we don’t understand about the science of sleep, lets talk about what we do know and some ways we can help increase Q2S.
Sleep is classified into two different categories: REM and non-REM (NREM). NREM consist of four phases. The fourth phase also know as slow wave sleep (SWS) or delta affects how refreshed and awake you feel in the morning (which is especially important if you get up at 4:15a!). REM sleep occurs several times each night and it is the period where most dreaming occurs. When we consistently deprive our bodies of sleep a snowball effect typically occurs. Stress hormones,, inflammatory factors, including C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, are released by the body in response to sleep restriction. To make the situation worse, lack of sleep decreases leptin, a hormone that lets you’re brain know you’re not hungry and increases ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates your appetite. Which, you probably already guessed, may lead to poor dietary choices and increase risk for obesity.
I know what you’re thinking, this is no big deal, I can make up for my lack of sleep on the weekends. Wrong. The latest research shows that there is no such thing as “sleep debt” and you can’t simply “pay it off” on the weekends by sleeping in.
Tips for Q2S:
· Sleep in a cool, dark, quite room. Yes, that means no TV, computer, radio, cellular device, etc.
· Avoid high sugar and starchy foods before bedtime.
· No caffeine after 12pm. I’ll admit, this rule may be hard to follow for me as I have an extreme, unnecessary coffee addition.
· Keep tract of your sleep! Not one size fits all. Figure out what works best for you and stick to it.
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SCAN student blogger Allison Bokenkotter is an intern at the University of Cincinnati. In addition, she’s the diversity/national nutrition month chair for the Greater Cincinnati Dietetic Association. You can find her on LinkedIn: Allison Bokenkotter.