Sleep 101: How Sleep Affects Your Daily Energy Levels

Sleep 101: How Sleep Affects Your Daily Energy Levels

What if I told you that there was a miracle drug that helps you live longer, improves your memory, boosts your creativity, and makes you more attractive. This miracle drug also keeps you lean while lowering those annoying food cravings.

It gets even better.

This miracle drug lowers the chances of getting the flu, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Using this drug effectively will lower the likelihood of experiencing a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. You’ll feel less depressed and anxious which creates room for more happiness in your life.

As icing on the cake, this miracle drug helps you create more energy so you can move and evolve at a faster pace in life.

What’s this miracle drug that is free of charge that I speak of?

Sleep.

Here’s the bad news, society isn’t taking advantage of this miracle drug.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 100 years ago, less than two percent of the population in the U.S. slept six hours or less a night. Now, in today’s society, 30 percent of adults are sleeping six hours or less a night. Sleep not only affects you mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially—it also greatly affects you physically.

It’s not a coincidence that as society has slept less and less, obesity, stress, and chronic illnesses have become more prevalent.

When you routinely short-change your sleep, your immune system suffers. Blood sugar levels get disrupted after a mere week of insufficient sleep. Sleep also helps with maintaining a flourishing microbiome within your gut.

With that said, we live in a hustle-centric society where we celebrate people who exhaust themselves into the ground. These people are called high performers (at least according to the internet).

I merely call these people disillusioned and unorganized.

A true high performer realizes that to achieve peak performance requires rest and recovery so you can be ready to fire on all cylinders the next day. Before I start ranting,  let’s define how sleep affects your daily energy levels and what it is.

What is sleep?

Besides being the “universal health care provider”, sleep is nutrition for your brain. High quality sleep in the proper amounts engineers a high performing body.

At night, your body is restocking itself with the right amount of hormones, processing and ridding itself of significant toxins, repairing damaged tissues, generating vital white blood cells for immunity, building defense walls against various illnesses, eliminating the effects of stress, and processing heavy emotions (and we all have tons of that).

Safe to say, sleep is complex and this doesn’t even get into the aspects of how it affects your weight and performance.

I repeatedly emphasize with clients in my coaching program that without optimizing sleep, the nutritional and training aspects won’t be as effective. With all of this said, sleep is a complex subject in which science is slowly learning more about its complex intricacies.

Why do we sleep?

Shockingly, science doesn’t have a definitive answer for this. However, there are a handful of theories with these four being the most common:

  1. The inactivity theory — This is an adaptive method which is better suited for animals (including us humans) that states it’s better for us to be quiet during the time when we’re most at risk.
  2. The energy conservative theory — Sleeping decreases a persons energy metabolism and conserves it for when it’s most needed.
  3. The restorative theory — Sleeping allows the body time to heal and grow. Research has shown that tissue repair, muscle growth, and the release of Growth Hormone occurs abundantly during sleep.
  4. The brain plasticity theory — Brain remodeling occurs during sleep which is why you hear the emphasis on sleep and children’s brain development.

In summary, think of sleep being a priority so your brain and body can do its necessary housekeeping and maintenance work. For example, I don’t find it by chance that Alzheimer’s (some call it diabetes of the brain) is on the rise because the average person is sleeping less.

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that is associated with the buildup of a toxic form of proteins called beta-amyloid, which aggregates in sticky clumps (i.e. plaques) within your brain. These places are poisonous to neurons since they kill the surrounding brain cells (in particular, they stick mostly around the middle part of the frontal lobe).

How Sleep Affects Your Daily Energy Levels - brain

However, while we sleep, and only while we sleep, our brains are flushed with fluid to help remove waste products (i.e. plaques) that accumulate throughout the day. Other poisonous elements that are associated with Alzheimer’s are removed during the cleaning process which includes a protein called ‘tau’. Think of this as a stress molecule produced by neurons while combusting energy and oxygen throughout the day.

Your brain operates like a computer program that needs to be turned off and shut down for updates.

2 factors that govern sleep

We are hardwired and dependent on sleep through two big drivers.

1.Circadian rhythm — This is a biological process that typically operates over a 24-hour cycle. As you go through the day, you’ll experience fluctuations in appetite, blood pressure, body temperature, concentration levels, and fatigue levels. With that said, your circadian rhythm mostly operates and take its cue from light exposure.

biological clock - How Sleep Affects Your Daily Energy Levels

Image originally appears on Wikipedia

The controlling clock the generates the 24-hour rhythm is the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) which sits in the middle of your brain located in the hypothalamus.

The SCN “samples” the light signal being sent from each eye along the optic nerves as they head toward the back of the brain for visual processing. The SCN then uses this information to produce a signal to keep the rest of the body on an approximate 24-hour schedule.

Your SCN is composed of 20,000 brain cells (or neurons) and is super tiny compared to the brain being composed of approximately 100 billion neurons. With that said, this clock is the central conductor of life’s biological rhythm and thus controls a plethora of behaviors.

Your SCN communicates night and day to your brain and body using a messenger called melatonin.

2. Homeostatic drive — Think of this as your checks and balances with areas such as sleep, blood and tissue metabolism, body temperature, and blood pressure being affected.

Ever wondered why you get tired?

You owe this to the sleep pressure accumulating in the form of adenosine.

Picture your homeostatic drive as an hourglass with sand that slowly withers away to the bottom from the moment you wake up. As time gets closer to running out (i.e. sand accumulating at the bottom), your body receives stronger signals that it needs to sleep. Every hour that passes, the urge to sleep increases (i.e.sleep pressure builds up).

The 5 stages of sleep (or Sleep Architecture)

While there are five phases of sleep, they are classified into two distinct types: Non-Rem (around 75-80% of your sleep) and REM (around 20-25% of your sleep). Throughout the night, you’ll go through several sleep cycles with Stages 1-4 consisting of Non-Rem and Stage 5 being your REM cycle. The typical sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes.

I make it a goal for clients to get at minimum five full cycles nightly (7.5 hours of sleep). With each successive sleep cycle, you’ll experience longer periods of REM sleep.

Think of Non-Rem as your muscles being relaxed while gradually shifting into a deeper sleep. In REM, your brain will return to near waking levels while also increasing blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. With that said, let’s further break down the stages.

1. Stage 1 (drowsy/light sleep) — In this stage, you’re awake but gradually transitioning to completely falling asleep. Your brain is producing slow brain waves called theta waves. Some people in this stage aren’t even aware that they have fallen asleep. This stage is easily interrupted.

2.Stage 2 (light sleep) —You’re disengaging from the environment and other outside stimuli. This stage of Non-Rem comprises the most of your nightly sleep. Eye movement slows, breathing and heart rate decreases along with temperature. Your brain is now producing two brain waves: sleep spindles and K-complexes which are unique to stage 2.

Think of sleep spindles as sharp, narrow brain waves that help you block out external noise. Your K-complexes are believed to help support the consolidation of memories.

3. Stage 3 (slow wave/start of deep sleep) — Your brain starts producing deeper, higher amplitude, and slower waves called delta waves. This stage is the mark from light to deep sleep.

4. Stage 4 (deep sleep) — You’re in a much deeper sleep with your delta waves building up. Your muscles are relaxed and are receiving an increased supply of blood. More importantly, many hormones that carry out important functions in your body are being released. One, in particular, is Growth Hormone, which plays a role in muscle development, overall body growth and development.

Your body is able to undergo healing, repair of tissue and joints, restoration, and refilling your energy levels for tomorrow. Unfortunately, interruption of this stage can inhibit the secretion of this hormone.

5. Stage 5 (REM—the most popular). A full cycle normally repeats about 4-6 times per night. REM cycles are shorter at the beginning of sleep and pick up in duration in the later cycles. Brain waves during this stage can be higher than those seen while awake. Beyond energy restoration of your body, dreaming along with various high-level mental activity occurs here. Your brain is going into overdrive during this stage.

sleep-cycle-infographic

2 big causes for you being tired

There will be more articles and resources down the road that goes into the specificities of fatigue. But for now, a general introduction is all that’s needed.

1. Sleep desynchronization — As mentioned earlier, our body has a natural circadian rhythm and homeostatic mechanism that it needs to stay on track with. However, when you force your body to stay awake (or asleep) at times that are out of synch with your normal rhythm and homeostatic mechanism, fatigue builds up. Examples of this are overnight shift work, pulling all-nighters, or jet lag to name a few.

2. Sleep deprivation — This is the most popular and familiar cause. This is simply not getting enough sleep usually due to a lack of self-control and discipline. Example: Jane is sleeping 6 hours instead of the recommended 7.5-9 hours. In this situation, let’s say that Jane needs 7.5 hours to feel fully rested but is only getting six. Therefore, each week she has a sleep debt of 10.5 hours due to losing 90 minutes each night.

Every facet of life in some form or fashion is highly dependent upon sleep. With that said, here’s a chart created years ago listing the various effects of sleep deprivation.

sleep-deprivation-infographic

4 Simple Tips to Reduce Jet Lag

4 Simple Tips to Reduce Jet Lag

As a busy and high-performing entrepreneur or business leader, travel is likely a necessity for creating new opportunities and growing existing ones. However, with traveling often comes poor sleep and jet lag which not only affects your health but also your bottom line.

Jet lag occurs because of a disruption to your body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) due to traveling across multiple time zones (think two or more). Your circadian rhythm is a natural cycle that tells your body when to rise and fall asleep among many other processes.

Typical symptoms of jet lag include difficulty sleeping at bedtime while struggling to wake up in the morning, daytime fatigue, stomach problems, and a decrease in cognitive performance.

While your smartphone automatically resets to represent the new time, your bodies internal software doesn’t operate as efficiently.

With that said, jet lag doesn’t have to equate to an automatic sentence of decreased performance and quality of life. In fact, using these four strategies, you can reduce jet lag during your next extended trip.

1. Stay hydrated

Whether you’re seeking improvement in the boardroom or the gym, it’s essential to cover the fundamentals before anything else. And when it comes to travel health, it doesn’t get any more fundamental than remembering to stay hydrated.

During a recent trip to Portugal, hydration was a top priority. While drinking water is important, there’s an often forgotten area that needs to stay hydrated and that is your skin.

You can become dehydrated on a plane due to the air circulation systems because the systems cabin pressure combined with the dry, recirculated air takes moisture from your skin.

A simple tip to avoid this situation is to pack a skin moisturizer with you.

2. Implement light therapy

Bright light exposure is one of the best methods for adjusting to a new time zone after traveling across multiple ones. However, it’s important to avoid and seek out light at specific times.

During my trip to Portugal, I was traveling eastward which meant I was advancing my clock. Therefore, seeking morning light and avoiding late afternoon light would help the adjustment process to the earlier time zone. If you’re heading west, then apply the opposite method.

For the more technology savvy crowd, you can use a device called the human charger.

This light therapy device looks like an iPod and comes with special LED light headphones which help you adjust to the new time zones. It also comes with an app where you enter your flight information and the app will tell you when to use the device to remove any guesswork.

3. Prepare a sleeping kit

Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who can sleep on planes, it’s often times not of high quality. Thus when you arrive at your destination, you’re not feeling in a high performing state.

With that said, to increase your chances of obtaining quality and quantity sleep so you’ll arrive in a better state, pack a personal sleep kit.

Inside your kit, a couple items I recommend are an eye mask, earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, something to layer up with, and a pair of blue light blocking glasses in case you plan on working or reading on a device in which you want to limit light exposure.

4. Be picky about your plane and time of arrival

Scheduling arrivals for the daytime help because it’s easier to stay awake due to bright light exposure. Also, you’re more tempted to explore the new surroundings because you have the full day ahead of you which leads to fatigue later at night.

Lastly, if possible, choose the Airbus 350 or 380. Those planes have humidification systems which help the air retain moisture preventing you from dehydrating. They also have an intricate LED lighting system producing 16.7 million shades of color helping you regulate to the time zone you’re entering because the colors simulate different times of the day.

Completely eliminating jet lag is unlikely. But with a few small and effective steps, you can arrive in a better state ready to lead and perform at your best.

This article originally appeared over at Chief Executive Magazine.

The 4 Agreements of Fitness And Life

4-agreements-of-fitness-and-life

The year is 1997 and I was a naive eleven-year-old with a serious affinity for superheroes, sports, video games, music, and red vines.

Michael Jordan was on his way out of the NBA. Allen Iverson (who was the reason why I wore number 3 in high school basketball) was beginning his massive impact on the sports world. 90’s R&B was a force even though I had no idea what these people were singing about—it sounded good.

Also in 1997, a man by the name of Don Miguel Ruiz published a small book that went on to become a massive best-seller and influence many people with ‘The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Wisdom’.

In only 153 pages, Ruiz shares “ancient Toltec wisdom” that is broken down into four concise principles for life.

These four principles can help you achieve freedom and happiness in life. But aren’t those the same things we want when it comes to our well-being?

Couldn’t we use a little more freedom and happiness when it comes to our relationship with food? Couldn’t we use a little more freedom and happiness when it comes to our relationship with our bodies? Couldn’t we use a little more freedom and happiness when it comes to the way we talk to ourselves (I know I could)? Couldn’t we use a little more freedom and happiness when it comes to the way we move our bodies?

Residing in guilt and fear when making choices about your health isn’t an ideal way to live.

With all of this said, this book played a huge role in helping me get to where I currently am along with where I’m rapidly moving towards. Here are the 4 agreements of fitness and life.

1st Agreement: Be impeccable with your word

“When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself” — Don Miguel Ruiz

Being impeccable with your word isn’t using your word for self-infliction which leads to guilt, shame, and halts progression.

Instead, your word is your promises and commitments that you make to yourself. Here’s the other important tidbit, only commit to actions you intend to follow through on because each time you promise yourself something and don’t follow through, you lose confidence and respect for yourself.

With that said, on a day-to-day basis, how is the language that you use toward yourself? What kind of words do you use to describe your reality? Do you say things about yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend?

Not using empowering language toward yourself is a discreet form of self-sabotaging. Taking control of your emotional and mental world is the first pillar to transforming yourself.

Health, learning, growing and evolving at a fast pace, dancing, impacting people, and writing is important to me. Therefore my commitments need to reflect what’s important to me while empowering me to grow each day into the best version of myself. Here are some examples of language I use for my identity.

  • I desire to have great health so I can live to my highest self while looking and feeling great naked. Therefore “I’m the type of person that consistently goes to the gym and exercises 30-60 minutes and eats a variety of vegetables and nutritious foods to fuel my body and brain”.
  • I desire to have abundant energy so I can make my highest impact felt in the world. Therefore “I’m the type of person who prioritizes my sleep with no room for negotiating”.
  • I desire to live in Portugal for spurts of time and need to communicate effectively. Therefore, “I’m the type of person that consistently practices and studies my 2nd language daily”.
  •  I desire to have supreme confidence to ask any girl at the salsa club to dance with me. Therefore, “I’m the type of person that consistently heads out to salsa clubs to improve my skill level”.
  • I desire to have a best selling book that is translated into multiple languages that are at bookstores and helps millions. Therefore, “I’m the type of person who deliberately writes 1000 words a day to become better”.
  • I desire to help and inspire a million people in the next decade. Therefore, “I’m the type of person who publishes weekly, consistently seeks speaking engagements, and reaches out to at least 1 person daily so I can impact people the best I can”.

Notice on all of those that the commitment is the action itself, not the specific result because I can’t fully control when it arrives.

I can’t control when I’ll get back down to around 10 percent body fat. I can’t control when I’ll be fluent. I can’t control when I’ll be a salsa Jedi. I can’t control if my next book will be a best seller or even if I’ll get a book deal. I can’t control if my next article goes viral or if the next person I meet changes their life due to something I said.

But I can put myself in the best position for those things to happen through my intentional actions and being impeccable with my word (i.e. my commitments).

Take some time today and write out a handful of commitments to yourself so your brain can start working towards things that you really want.

2nd Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally

“When you make it a strong habit not to take anything personally, you avoid many upsets in your life. Your anger, jealousy, and envy will disappear, and even your sadness will simply disappear if you don’t take things personally.” — Don Miguel Ruiz

Whether it’s in professional settings, relationships, or judgment from your friends—you’ll inevitably experience opinions about something you do.

When I first began to workout, I experienced chatter from friends due to me passing on Friday night college parties so I could be refreshed for my Saturday workout and studying. A handful of friends and family called me “crazy” when I left the pursuit of medicine (first big internet article and more about my decision to leave in case you’re curious) behind to pursue my current endeavors.

I have a one-star review on Amazon which could shoot my confidence if I didn’t equip myself with the right perspective (I actually laughed because I’m weird like that).

Odds are, someone has most likely called you crazy, dumb, or something else of similarity—probably this week. However, we must remember that it’s not about us in these situations.

What others say and do to us is nothing more than a projection of their own reality. What they choose to do and say is never about us.

When you become immune to the opinions and actions of others, their negativity and words will deflect off of you just as bullets deflect from Captain America’s shield.

shield— 4-agreements-of-fitness-and-life
With a shield made out of vibranium, nothing can hurt you.

With that said, you’ll consistently be tempted around every corner as you attempt to grow and evolve.

“It’s the holidays, why are you eating only one plate.” “Why don’t you have some more drinks?” “You can relax and give it a break, why are you getting the grilled fish?” You don’t have to eat healthy all the time? Just indulge and get the burger and beer.” “Why do you want it all, just be happy with the simple things.”

When you’re trying to make healthy choices and grow, your circle will sometimes give you a hard time because you’re breaking free from the norm and familiarity. Sometimes they’re joking. And if not, still don’t take it personally. Instead, treat them with even more compassion. Remember, they don’t see the world the same as you and that’s okay.

Don’t take criticism, your friends opinion, and especially the “Facebook expert” who seems to know every subject personally. Keep your head down, stay positive, choose the good type of pain, and ruthlessly focus on where you’re going.

3rd agreement: Don’t make assumptions

“We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking—we take it personally—then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why when we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing.” — Don Miguel Ruiz

Assumptions leave a lot up to the imagination which leads to worse case scenario thinking. When you’re thinking about your well being, assumptions are dangerous because this can lead to dogmatic thinking when you’re approaching potential solutions for your fitness.

Perhaps you’re making assumptions about which diet will and won’t work for you. Perhaps you’re making assumptions about particular training programs and strategies not working for you. All of these assumptions are creating limiting beliefs.

With all of this said, there’s an easy solution to stop letting assumptions guide you and that is to start asking questions.

Have the courage to ask questions about whatever the situation is in front of you. This diet doesn’t work? This type of workout program doesn’t work? And the excuses can go on forever.

But why? Investigate because these type of moments are when you can extract gold from the situation which leads to growing and evolving at a faster rate.

4th agreement: Always do your best

“It’s the one that allows the other three to become deeply ingrained habits. The fourth agreement is about the action of the first three: Always do your best.” “Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good.” — Don Miguel Ruiz

We can’t always control the outcome to situations, but we can control our daily actions.

Abiding by a rule of one percent daily improvement is a great way to keep your sanity while attempting to do your best. Focus on continuous improvement which is achieved through consistent small steps that eventually become monumental feats.

What I’ve noticed over the years with myself and clients is that those who take the consistent but small steps are more successful long-term compared to the ones who attempt large and monumental action because they can’t sustain it long term. Slow and steady always wins.

turtle — 4 agreements of fitness and life
Don’t forget the turtle always wins the race.

When you take small but important actions, the resistance isn’t as likely to stop you because while it’s out of your comfort zone, it’s not so far out that you’re feeling highly anxious and fearful.

At the end of the day, it’s a daily battle to abide by the 4 agreements of fitness and life. They are conceptually simple, but difficult in execution once you immerse yourself in the day-to-day world where temptations are abundant.