Sleep is one of the most important things that we can look into and, most often, one of the main things that most people seem to overlook. As fitness professionals and personal trainers, working with our clients on sleep is very important because it determines how the workouts will go and how their nutrition will also play out over the course of the day. With that being said, let‘s get into sleep and the importance of it.
Now, if you are like me, I enjoy my sleep and I enjoy a lot of it. Personally, I usually function better on around 8+ hours of sleep a day and then can also function pretty well with less than 6 for at least half of a day. While these habits are not what we want to preach and teach, they are something that I am continuously working on and improving as I work with my clients.
Sleep is the body’s way of repairing and relaxing itself so that it can perform optimally day in and day out. With lack of sleep comes impaired body and mind functions, weight gain, drowsiness, lack of focus, along with some severe things such as hallucinations and some other things, as I will discuss later on. With these impairments and these issues arising, as you can probably already tell, they are going to affect all other aspects of your life. So, you will gain weight because your body is not at rest burning off fat and weight so going to the gym will not be as effective. Work will become a struggle because you will lose focus too easy and will start to slip up and make mistakes that you normally wouldn’t make if you were well rested.
Now, a couple days here and there of little sleep will not severely affect you for the rest of your life, but if you do make it a habit over the course of a few years you will run into some pretty severe issues. For example, in the book The Sleep Solutions by W. Chris Winter, he goes into detail on how lack of sleep has been linked to Alzheimer’s in some cases and then also different forms of cancer as well.
Now I understand what you may be thinking, there is no possible way me not getting sleep during the night will give me cancer or Alzheimers. How is that possible? Isn’t that hereditary? Well, yes and no.
The science behind it states that with lack of sleep comes with lack of brain function. During the night when you are sleeping, your glymphatic system is responsible for releasing a waster product that you accumulate throughout the day called amyloid beta. If your body is unable to sleep, then your glymphatic system will not get rid of that waste. Guess what is the most prominent thing in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients? You guessed it, amyloid beta.
Now, my goal with telling you that was not to scare you and make you think that you need to always be sleeping and if you ever yawn then that means you need to go to bed and sleep until you get up and function at 1000%. This is where I want to get into if you are actually tired or not.
In The Sleep Solution, one of the main issues that the author always faces is having patients coming in and always saying they are not getting enough sleep or just saying that they are not even getting sleep to begin with. While in some cases this may be true, the majority of the time that he says people are coming in do not have this issue and that they actually sleep, they just sleep very poorly and their quality of sleep is bad. Without getting too much into that, I really want to focus today on when to sleep and if you are actually tired.
As a rule of thumb, any time that you are losing focus and you feel that you are starting to drift off and not understand what is going on in a particular book or movie, then it is time to sleep. If you are reading and you are unable to interpret what is going on or remember what you just read, it is time to sleep. Basically, any time that you feel that you cannot actually function because you are drifting off then it is time to take a little nap and then get back into it. Now while this may seem simple, there is something else that I want you to keep in mind.
Tired and Sleepy are two different things. Yes, you heard me right. While these terms are always interchangeable, they do not mean the same thing. Let me explain.
When you work out, you leave the gym or leave your personal trainer feeling tired. Your body is taxed, you are sweating and just want to eat and get some water in you. This is not sleepy, your body is just tired and physically not able to function at 100% since it had already been taxed. Being sleepy means that you are unable to focus on a particular task, dozing off when you are at work or at home, or getting to the point to where your brain is more tired than your body.
If you take anything away from this blog, take away that when your eyes and brain are tired, take a nap. If your body is tired after some manual labor, then you are not necessarily sleepy.