7 Ways to Improve Sleep

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If You Don’t Sleep You Die

When you are a fitness professional, you get asked the same questions on a daily basis.  How do I add more muscle?  How do I burn more fat?  How do I lose more weight?  What sort of pre-workout supplement can I take? And so on.  I have never been asked how to sleep better though, so it prompted me to dive into the world of sleep to find out what benefits on exercise, if any, we are afforded.  Get your coffee and favorite chair ready, cuz here we go!

“I love sleep.  My life has a tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”          -Ernest Hemmigway

In one study, researchers rigged a contraption that woke rats  up as soon as they fell asleep.  It took three weeks for the rats to die using this contraption.  Human beings actually suffer from two diseases, fatal familial insomnia, a mutation that causes progressively worse insomnia, and eventually death in a few months, and Morvan’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that destroys the potassium channels in the brain which leads to severe insomnia and eventually death as well.

Did you pull an all nighter and plan on going about your day because “only the strong survive?”  Going 24 hours without sleep equates to the brain function after taking 3 shots of hard liquor.  You process slower, your reaction time diminishes, and you send your hormonal system into chaos.

Sleep disorders add $16 billion dollars to national health care costs each year, and sleep deprived caused accidents in the workplace add another $134 billion.  Is sleep important?  HELL YES!  But why?  Sleep is important for two reasons:

1.  The brain clears up cellular garbage when you sleep.
2.  The body repairs itself while you sleep.

In the book A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy scientists built the greatest computer in the universe.  When they turned it on they asked the computer, “who is the greatest computer in the universe?”  And the computer responded, “The next computer you build.”  The scientists were horrified because that is not what they expected to hear, but the computer was right.

You see, after a long day of trivial tasks, your brain is full of bits and pieces of information.  Some need to be organized and kept, some need to be thrown out.  Your brain is the best computer in the world…… tomorrow!  Not today.  If we don’t sleep we eventually lose space to store new information.  When this happens our body begins to malfunction in the following ways:

  • Problems regulating body heat.
  • Immune system decline.
  • Increase in stress hormones, and if stress becomes chronic your body will decrease the amount of gray matter in the brain that deals with rational thought.
  • The hormone Ghrelin runs rampant stimulating your hunger to no end.
  • Inflammation skyrockets.

If we are not sleeping enough, we are not helping our body release growth hormone and testosterone to repair the damage we did to our muscles.  So next time you try to train on 2 hours of sleep, know you are shrinking your brain, shrinking your muscles, and making yourself sick!

How much sleep do we need?

According to the National Sleep Foundation adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep, and children between the age of 10-17 should get 8.5-9.5 hours per night!  Oddly, for adults, sleeping more than 9 hours is related to increased risk of chronic disease, and a shorter life.  Check out these stats on sleep deprivation and performance:

  • Max bench dropped 20 pounds after 4 days of restricted sleep.
  • With proper sleep tennis players hit the ball 42% more accurate.
  • Losing sleep equates to an 11% reduction in time to exhaustion.
  • Perceived exertion increases 17-19% after losing a total of 30 hours of sleep(meaning exercise feels harder).

Lets face it, working out is a little more demanding than tennis or golf, so sleep, and getting enough sleep should be a huge priority, if not the number one priority!

How Do We Improve Our Sleep?

There are several ways to improve sleep.  Some of them are cheap and easy to take advantage of.  Others are quite advanced, and require a hefty investment.  All have been proven to work.  I took the liberty of tracking down the best products to take the guess work out for you.  If you are interested in trying something out, click on the link to make a purchase.

1.  Magnesium – Everyone is deficient in magnesium.  The harder you train, the more you lose! Most people feel it can be replenished in our nutrition, but this just isn’t so.  Ease magnesium spray is an amazing product that I simply will never live without.  It’s calming effects on all the body’s systems is truly amazing.  It helps you sleep like a baby and helps sore muscle tissue recover.

I recommend the spray because the skin is a natural defense against absorption.  If you take too much oral magnesium, you will get diarrhea, when you topically apply magnesium, the skin will stop absorbing it when your body gets enough.

Ease Magnesium Spray

2.  Potassium Citrate – Potassium citrate is another mineral that becomes vacant in the body due to the crap food we eat that will cause restlessness when we sleep.  Take 400-500mgs with the magnesium before bedtime.  If you get a loose stool, back off and use a lower dose.

Potassium Citrate

3.  MCT Oil – This will work really well for you if food craving keep you awake, or if you wake up in the middle of the night feeling super hungry on occasion.  MCT oil can not be stored in the body so it gets burned slowly while you sleep regulating blood sugar.  Take two to three tablespoons before bed.

MCT Oil

4.  Melatonin – Melatonin is only released in the body when we sleep in a pitch black room.  Since most of us don’t we do not produce enough to keep us sleeping.  Melatonin is most famous for being our natural anti-cancer drug.  I take 5mg on some nights (usually on the weekend when I know I can get extra sleep) and it works like a charm.

Melatonin

5. Binaural Beats – This works through brain wave entrainment, meaning it brings your brain wave frequencies into step with a specific frequency.  Anxiety is usually what keeps us up at night, worried about what happened that day, or what will happen tomorrow.  For 99 cents you can buy an mp3 that breaks you out of the anxiety frequency and into sleep mode.  This is not science fiction, it actually works!

Binaural Beats

6. Earth Pulse – Now for the biggie.  The earth emits a natural magnetic frequency that assists with our natural sleep cycle, our hormonal cycle, and our ability to naturally alleviate stress.  This is called grounding.  The problem is we wear shoes with rubber soles on them 90% of the day which disconnects us from the earth.  Then we can’t fall asleep at night.

The earth pulse machine is placed under your bed and emits this frequency to help you sleep.  Every team on the Tour De France uses an earth pulse to recover faster, and sleep on grounding mats as well.  The only down side is these gadgets are pricey.  If you have the resources I highly recommend you buy it, there is a 90 day money back guarantee!

Earth Pulse

7. Lastly, when reading the book 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back (if you want to pick up the book you can do so HERE) by Esther Gokhale, her contention is that we wake up frequently or get crappy sleep because we don’t put our body in a restful position!

“A poor sleep position threatens various body structures, and signals the brain to change positions,” says Gokhale, and “tossing and turning is an attempt to find a healthy position for your muscles to relax.”  Boy was she right!  As I experimented with this new position it took a night or two to get used to, but once I nailed it I slept like a baby.  She calls this technique stretchlying, here are the steps:

1. Sit on the bed with your knees bent, and your feet flat on the bed.  insert a pillow between your butt and heels, your legs should be over, not resting on the pillow.

2. Using your elbows, lower your body to a 30 degree angle, elbows on the bed, bend your arms so your forearms are resting on the bed, arms at a 90 degree angle.

3. Slowly lower your back onto the bed lengthening your spine as you go.

4. Rest your arms at your sides comfortable.

5. Extend legs all the way and let feet rotate out to relax.

That about wraps it up guys.  I really hope you take some of these things into consideration, and that it helps you live a fuller, richer life!

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