Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lack of Sleep: what really happens to your body?

Blessed Chaos is a term I borrowed from my client, Laura, to describe the 3-2-1 GO GO GO GO lifestyle that I and so many of you live! Recently my life has been "full speed ahead"- Up at 5am every morning and weekends out of town or booked with events! The next two months hold a great deal of excitement for me: opening CrossFit Central at RunTex, launching new CrossFit Central ventures (Lance Armstrong Foundation and CFC endurance programs), Jack's Generic Triathlon and The Austin Triathlon - OH YEAH, did I mention my wedding Oct 2nd with all the parties and planning that entails!? All good things happening and I wouldn't have it any other way. However, it is in times like the these that one of the most essential needs gets neglected: SLEEP! After three weeks of seeing 5 am and 11pm combined with three weekends of travel, my workouts started to suffer, my productivity started to slump, and I noticed just a hint of a sore throat and body aches. All of these are lack of sleep symptoms. My body is telling me to slow down and rest! I will listen!
Humans on average need around 8 hours of sleep a night to recover from the day's activities. Sleep is an anabolic, or building, process and restores the body's energy supplies that the day's events depleted. We cannot maximize our mental or physical capacity if we do not allow time for the restoration and rebuilding to occur.
How it's supposed to work:
Our body is naturally set to a 24 hour sleep/wake cycle - the Circadian Cycle. We were programmed to rise and set with the sun and two major hormones were also set to follow this cycle: growth hormone and cortisol. During sleep our body releases growth hormone allowing the body to do it's repair work. On the other hand, cortisol is released with light simulation -and levels are high during the morning and scheduled to be lowest from 6pm to 6am. The growth hormone restore your body at night and cortisol regulates metabolism and insulin response during the day.
What really happens:
Modern life meddles with this process because we are constantly stimulated by light bulbs, tv's and computer screens prompting an "it's morning" response and causing a release of more cortisol and keeping us up late! To make up for the lack of sleep we drink coffee and often eat a muffin or other snack full of simple sugars or high fructose corn syrup. Well, white sugar and caffeine stimulate the adrenal glands to release even more cortisol. Since cortisol dictates how our body metabolizes fat, protein, and carbs we do not function well after the caffeine and sugar wears off. Now we have deprived ourselves of precious sleep (and growth hormone)needed for tissue repair, mental alertness and we've pumped body full of the stress hormone.
The Result:
In the end, if we do not make time for adequate sleep we set our physiology up to work against us! Instead of being productive, active, and mentally alert - we may start to feed our body with processed foods, "crashing" during meetings, and skipping workouts.

That said - it's 9:27pm and I am headed back to Fort Hood at 7am for day 2 of my CrossFit Level 1, GOODNIGHT! Take care of your body and it will take care of you.

1 comment:

  1. very if I could just get 6 hours of sleep! I have to work my way up to 8.