Optimizing sleep – You’ve probably already heard that “muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen and built in bed.” Yes, this might sound crazy to you, but your muscles grow when you’re out of the gym and in bed. As an athlete, getting adequate and quality sleep is in my top priorities.Sleep is the best medication and it’s free, yet too often it is taken for granted and underutilized.
If we do not get the adequate amount of sleep our body needs, over time our bodies will begin to break down. The body clock is responsible for much more than just feeling alert and energized.
What are some of the consequences from lack of sleep?
– Inability to recovery from exercise
– Inability to lose fat
– Inability to concentrate
– Loss of performance- Loss of muscle mass
– Loss of muscle mass
– Weaker immune system
– Gut problems
– Insulin resistance
– Disrupted hormones
– Increase hunger
– Mood swings
– Joint pains and much more…
What is your circadian rhythm?
Your circadian rhythm is your natural physiological 24-hour internal clock often called sleeps and wake cycles. It plays a major role in hormone release, digestive functions, and body temperature. Your circadian rhythm works at its best when you maintain consistent and regular sleep habits. This involves waking up and going to bed roughly at the same time even on weekends.
It’s not only about how many hours of sleep you get but precisely what time you go to bed and wake up. Naturally, our body is in sync with the cycle of the sun and the environment. As the sunlight comes up, our body heightens the production of cortisol, a stress hormone which makes it possible for us to get out of bed. In the afternoon, the cortisol levels start to reduce especially as the sun goes down. Then, when the night falls, there is less light which allows the body to release melatonin, the hormone which is responsible for making us feel sleepy and allows us to fall asleep. It is followed by an increase in the levels of growth and repair hormones. If we follow our natural cycle, we start to wind down around sunset and fall asleep around 22:00. The physical repair will take place between 22:00 and 2:00 am and psychological repair will take place from 2:00 to 6:00. Now, if you go to bed past midnight and think that by sleeping in later you will be able to catch up and recover, think differently. Your body will automatically begin its physical repair at 2:00 am and you’ll be missing out on your repair cycle.
When we follow our natural internal clock this is what happens:
7:30: melatonin secretion stops
9:00: cortisol is at its highest
12:00: cortisol levels start to lower
18:00: increase in growth hormone
21:00: melatonin secretion starts to accelerate
22:30: bowel movements are suppressed
22:00 – 2:00 physical repair
2:00- 6:00 psychological repair
Unfortunately, a lot of people are victim of cycle entrainment. It takes between 7- 21 days to entrain your system and hormones to work off schedule. This means if you work evening shifts or go to bed very late for more than a week in a row, you have synchronized your body to a dysfunction schedule. Your body will now be trained to keep producing cortisol until late at night. That’s why people who are used to going to bed late and try to go to bed early one day are left with the problem of not being able to fall asleep. Hormones are out of whack! Altering your circadian rhythm may even lead to producing cortisol throughout the entire day.
What disrupts your circadian rhythm?
By Catherine Medeiros, Rocktape ambassador, Coach and athlete for team Canada Bobsleigh.
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