Sleep, My A Secret Weapon | figureFIT

Sleep, My A Secret Weapon

Is Sleep Your Secret Weapon?

I had a client ask me that the other day. After thinking about it, I thought, "yea, I think it definitely helps, there is so many great things that are happening when the body is asleep!" 

Getting good quality sleep is one of my highest priorities. Most adults should shoot for at least 7 – 9 hours of good (solid) sleep every night. If I have less than eight hours, I'm not operating at my optimal levels and I can definitely tell. 

When we do not get enough sleep cortisol is the hormone the most affected and if it is not taken care of it can wreak havoc on your body: poor decision making, raise in blood pressure, insulin resistance, disrupted glucose management, deposits of fat in muscle tissues, and increased muscular breakdown.*

What Happens When We Sleep

Your night is composed of two parts—NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which makes up ¾ of your sleep period; and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which take up about ¼ of your sleep time.

Stages One and Two of NREM Sleep: You drift between waking and sleeping as you disengage from your surroundings. Your heart rate evens out to a steady, slow beat and your body temperature drops.

Stages Three and Four of NREM: This is the deepest, most restorative sleep. Your heart rate is very low, and blood moves to your muscles—repairing and growing new tissue that you worked in the day's prior figureFIT! workout. In addition, hormones are released that are essential to muscle growth, as well as mood and appetite regulation.

During The Last Stage of NREM Sleep (Stage 5): This is your deep dreaming phase. Your muscles shut down and rest while energy is being supplied to your body and brain. This last phase provides the focus and energy you need for the following day.

REM sleep occurs about 90 minutes after you fall asleep, and then cycles back every 90 minutes or so throughout the night—with longer periods of REM sleep as the cycle progresses.

During the Two Phases of Sleep

Person is easily wokenPerson is usually difficult to wake
Breathing deepens80% of dreaming occurs in REM
Decrease in heart rate & blood pressureIncrease in heart rate and blood pressure
Overall decrease in body temp

Breathing patterns vary

Decrease in muscular activityOverall Increase in body temp
Growth hormone rises and peaksCortisol levels stabalize and rise towards morning
Cortisol levels fallPeak prolactin release
Reduction in thyroid outputIncrease thyroid output (metabolic rate)
 Testosterone levels increase rapidly


Sleep Deprivation Contributes To Fat Gain

When your natural circadian rythums are disrupted, your body hormones (cortisol, testosterone, hgh) are highly disrupted.

Cortisol – Normally, cortisol levels drastically decrease at your “regular” bed time, and then slowly increase throughout the sleep cycle so that you wake in the morning feeling energized. However, when you undergo sleep deprivation, cortisol levels have a hard time coming down at night.

Testosterone - the testosterone release precedes the REM stage of sleep. So it's been shown that a loss of REM sleep affects neurogenesis (growth of nervous tissue) and memory consolidation. Poor sleep affect memory and a cognitive impairment is normally apparent. 

This hormonal change leads to insulin resistance. Since insulin is the hormone that regulates how well cells use glucose, resistance to insulin is a major risk factor in developing obesity and diabetes.

Growth Hormone (GH) – The altered rate of GH secretion during periods of sleep deprivation also has an adverse effect on insulin-resistance and glucose tolerance.

Leptin – Leptin is a hormone release by fat cells as a signal to the brain that you are full. Recent studies in humans reflect what we already knew about animals—those who are sleep deprived are unable to effectively regulate the release of this hormone, which simulates a state of famine accompanied by a marked increase in appetite.

Ghrelin – Ghrelin is like the opposite of leptin—it’s the appetite stimulant… and (surprise!), ghrelin levels jump up when you’re sleep-deprived.

When we are not getting enought sleep our hormones are severely affected and it doesn't take much time before things start to get out of whack. 

Sleep Better and Longer

What to do when you need to get better sleep? Here are a few ways to ensure a restful slumber: 

  • Take inventory of what is causing you sleep deprivation. Get rid of the unnecessary disractions and things that are not critical to your life. 
  • Take a yoga class after work. 
  • Take breaks to sit with your breath and be present in the moment. 
  • Get some sunshine when you wake up in the morning or early in the day—this will help reset your circadian rhythm, your body’s hormone-production clock.
  • Feast after sunset to kick in the “rest and digest” mode and slow cortisol production. 
  • Avoid caffeine after noon.
  • Avoid electronics (including television and computers) a couple hours before hitting the sack… and keep them out of your bedroom if possible. If you must be in front of a screen, try blue-blocking optics like Gunnar glasses.
  • Keep your bedroom cool and dark to help you slip into deeper sleep faster.
  • Turn on a fan for ambient noise.
  • Do not set an alarm for snoozing. Let yourself sleep all the way up to your wake time and then if need be, snooze for one round. 
  • If you still have trouble clearing your mind and getting to sleep, experiment with Melatonin. Start with 1-3 mg about an hour or two before bed. If you don’t notice any effect, be sure to take it before your nightly meal. But be warned, you will be very ready for bed after your meal.

When you sleep well and restore balance to your life, you become more productive in your work, your workouts, and you can be of greater service to the world and those around you. Adequate amounts of sleep is critical to your overall health and lifestyle goals. 


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Slimming Slumber 2010