Your recovery Rockstar

Did you know that getting adequate and good quality sleep has a significant impact on hormone balance and muscle protein synthesis.


Outside of muscle growth, sleep deprivation has also been directly linked to an increase in appetite and as a result an increase in body fat. Because when you are not getting enough quality sleep hormones called Ghrelin and Leptin are affected and can effect our hunger levels.


Poor sleep will also lead to detrimental effects on your immune system
Because sleep helps T cells, a key part of our immune system, get to other places. Having enough T cells around to keep an eye on things means that we’re better able to start an immune response as needed.


But that’s not all. Remember that sleep helps us learn and remember? Well, it works for immune cells too.


Sleep boosts the immune system’s ability to ‘remember’ particular antigens, such as viruses. And more effectively produce antibodies or specific defenses against a particular antigen.


The most beneficial phases of sleep are the 2-3 hours of deep sleep we should experience each night. Deep sleep is very restorative and is where our stress hormone cortisol is at its lowest. And other hormones that support muscle growth are at their most potent.


Phases of sleep and the circadian system affect our immune and inflammatory responses. During this period there are changes to levels of various hormones.


These hormonal changes help boost the adaptive immune response. By helping it learn and “remember” antigens. When we sleep, our immune system is transferring what it’s learned about specific antigens (such as viruses) into its ‘long-term memory’. Which helps it recognize and respond effectively to the same antigens in future.


Cortisol is a stress-response and steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of vital body processes. And, it plays a crucial role in our sleep.
Under normal circumstances, cortisol follows a strong circadian rhythm. It’s highest when we first wake up, and decreases throughout the day.


When we don’t get enough sleep, we see less variation in the circadian rhythm of cortisol. We don’t get the highest highs in the morning, nor does cortisol drop as much in the evening.


This means that we often end up with higher measurements of cortisol after poor sleep because it doesn’t decrease like it should. On top of that, not getting enough sleep is stressful, too!


So, does it matter if we get a bad night’s sleep, or if our cortisol is too high, or both?


Yes.


Some research has suggested that cortisol could be the factor that links poor sleep to the development of depression. These things often go together.


For instance, a hallmark symptom of depression is changes in sleep. Including more awakenings in the night, difficulty falling asleep, and less deep sleep. Unsurprisingly, people who have depression often also have higher concentrations of cortisol.


If we’re able to improve our sleep and reduce our cortisol levels (i.e., deal with our sleep and stress), it will likely also help us better take care of our emotional, psychological and social well-being.


You can get started on improving your sleep quality by:

  • increasing darkness in the bedroom
  • have a regular time for going to bed
  • remove electrical equipment from the bedroom
  • maintain a cool temperature in the bedroom
  • use an alarm that will wake you up in a light sleep phase

Dealing in absolutes

Dealing in absolutes isn’t a good idea. When we use terminology such as good or bad or ‘always’ and ‘never’ it creates a false dichotomy.


Which is an informal fallacy based on a premise. That erroneously limits what options are available. The source of the fallacy lies not in an invalid form of inference but in a false premise.


And limiting options is not a good thing. Especially when it comes to methods of improving your health.


You may have asked ‘is this good for me?’


And the answer will likely be – it comes down to the amount!


One doughnut will not make you unhealthy just the same as one salad will not make you healthy.


We as human beings always look to simplify things. But when it comes to sleep, stress, food and exercise it’s not applicable.


To simplify and state that all stress is bad would be ignorant. As a certain amount of stress is beneficial to us (the amount depends on the individual).


To say that sugar is bad and you should never have it would be extreme and irrelevant. As it offers benefits both physiologically and psychologically.


Claiming that only sleep under certain conditions is good, also erroneous.


When we strive for these extremes and perfections only to fall short it can quite often be damaging. That’s why I propose you don’t!


Instead of being inconsistently perfect with your diet, exercise, stress, and sleep. Aim for being consistently alright. That is when you’ll start to notice improvement.


To do this, rather than thinking in switches (‘on’ or ‘off’) think in dials (1-10). It adds flexibility and sustainability when gauging the health practices in your life.

Immediate gratification

I know the process of exercise doesn’t feel good, in fact, it’s quite the opposite at the time. Being hot, sweaty, uncomfortable it’s quite an ordeal.

The same goes for food choices, it’s effort to cook a meal that will be better for you than a takeaway.

And getting to bed at a reasonable time rather than staying up for some more down time is tough.

Putting time aside to journal or meditate is also a challenge. Because at the back of your mind you know you’ve got a lot on your plate and you could be tackling some of that.

Doing these things gives us a short lived sense of achievement. From knowing that we’ve done something good for our health, but it’s negligible.

Everything else in our lives we get immediate gratification from. A take away meal or fast food gives us a big wave of dopamine. A cigarette gives us a nicotine hit, an alcoholic beverage gives us a buzz. Ordering something online arrives next day (sometimes the same day, thanks Mr Bezos)

It’s hard because we live in a world that caters for immediate gratification. Yet, these acute immediate gratifications are short lived. And some even come with remorse!

They’re very easy to fall into the habit of doing. When you’re busy with work and kids you might not be prepared to eat that well. Also, eating the stuff that’s not so great for you feels good when you’re stressed (thanks alot dopamine).

It’s easy not to go to the gym because ‘you haven’t got time’ or ‘you’re not feeling up for it’

It’s easy to watch another episode and stay up late because your day hasn’t included any time for you. It’s been all work, work, work.

With exercise, sleep, your diet, stress management there isn’t an clear or immediate feel-good association. Only the pat on the back you give yourself.

This immediate gratification is what you are fighting against in order to make a change.

Not giving into the things that feel good now but doing the things that will pay off later. Delayed gratification. The gratification that comes from achieving confidence from looking and feeling good. That feeling of being stronger, healthier, energised takes a bit of time.

But, imagine waking up every day feeling good, happy with what you see in the mirror. Thinking ‘you know what I’m going to change my social media profile pic to not just a headshot’.

‘I’m going to get those jeans from that store’.

This gratification will not be short lived! This will be with you for the foreseeable future, long-term happiness.

Sleep revenge!

You don’t need me to convince you of the benefits of sleep and I’m sure you’ve heard about them:

  • Boosting your immune system.
  • Help prevent weight gain.
  • Sleep can strengthen your heart.
  • Better sleep = better mood.
  • Sleeping can increase productivity.
  • Sleep can increase exercise performance.
  • Sleep improves memory.

But getting the hours of sleep required to see us recover and be at our best can be a challenge. This is because we have various demands that battle for our finite time attention and energy.


And it’s usually a case that choosing one of these commitments will see us miss out on another. And we humans don’t like thought of missing out, so we make decisions to avoid missing out.


For example did you know there is such a thing as revenge bedtime procrastination?! It is the decision to sacrifice sleep for leisure time that is driven by a daily schedule lacking in free time.


When your high-stress job takes up the bulk of your day. Revenge bedtime procrastination is a way to find a few hours of entertainment. It’s very easily done. After all this time is where you have currently assigned time for yourself to wind down. Or it could be time with you spend with your other half.

Even though it results in insufficient sleep, staying up late to do what you want gives you a sense of control that you don’t feel you have during your work or family life. Even if the “revenge” is mostly on oneself.


Although revenge bedtime procrastination can be tempting. late nights followed by early mornings can directly lead to serious sleep deprivation.
Sleep procrastination can take different forms. One involves delaying the act of getting into bed (bedtime procrastination). Another is delaying the time of trying to fall asleep once in bed (while-in-bed procrastination). A person may engage in one or both forms of sleep procrastination, each of which can reduce nightly sleep.

Also with engaging in this bedtime procrastination and knowing/generally wanting to receive enough sleep, but failing to do so creates cognitive dissonance (mental conflict).


There is also the concept of searching for perfect sleep conditions that can cause sleep problems. Take for example if something doesn’t confirm with your idea of the perfect sleep environment. You could then lay there disgruntled and tell yourself.


I’m not going to get to sleep now without x’


This is where a night time routine can be helpful. A night-time routine can reduce the impulse to stay up later instead of going to bed.

  • Keeping a consistent bedtime (setting an alarm to start this night time routine) and wake-up time (sleep cycle app), including non-working days.
  • Avoiding alcohol or caffeine late in the afternoon or evening.
  • Stop the use of electronic devices for at least half-an-hour, and longer, before bed.
  • Developing a stable routine to use every night to prepare for bed.

Reading, showering/bathing, meditating, or stretching, can be part of your bedtime routine. Relaxation techniques may also decrease the stress that can drive revenge bedtime procrastination.


Also creating an inviting bedroom environment. One that is dark and quiet, has a comfortable mattress and bedding can also make going to sleep more appealing. And reduce the desire to sacrifice sleep for leisure activities.


Hope this helps.


p.s. Don’t let the bed bugs bite!