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.

Sleeping in the Digital Age: 7 Habits to Immediately Improve Your Sleep

woman sleeping in the digital age

“I know I should do it, but I just don’t.”

Sound familiar?

Of course, it does. Each and every one of us most likely blurts this out at least once a day.

“I should eat healthier, but {insert excuse}.”

“I should start saving my money, but {insert excuse}.”

“I should clean the house, but {insert excuse}.”

“I should start my dream business, but {insert excuse}.”

“I should start writing daily and that will help develop the book I’ve been dying to write, but [insert excuse}.”

“I should ask that cute girl out who I have a crush on, but {insert excuse}.”

“I should do this.” “I should do that.”

And here’s the biggie—“I should sleep more, but {insert excuse}.”

We all know that sleep is vital to living a rich life and building a world class body, yet we turn a blind-eye.

Realizing the importance of sleep goes in one ear and out the other just as a 10-year old child neglects to listen to his parents about cleaning the room and not being so messy (ok, I’m talking about myself here).

This is the most technological age ever known to man. Never in time have we had the wealth of information available at our fingertips—yet, we’re getting worse at the simplest of habits (ahem, ahem…going to sleep).

This sleep epidemic is only getting worse. The average adult is getting one and a half hours less sleep per night than the average adult did 100 years ago.

But, 100 years ago, we didn’t have the internet, the influence and expectations to hustle our asses off, random lights throwing our natural circadian rhythms off, and distraction after distraction keeping us from hitting the sheets.

Life was much simpler to sleep 100 years ago.

There are gazillions of sleep articles in existence that discuss the effects and problems of sleep. We know that lack of sleep leads to foggy brain syndrome, mood swings that make you unpleasant to be around, skin that is far from glowing, an appetite that skyrockets (this doesn’t lead to good results), a metabolism that is a train wreck due to your hormones being off their normal cycle, and lastly—damaging your heart.

Ok, lack of sleep is bad (just in case you needed a friendly reminder).

Our distractions aren’t going anywhere and life isn’t going to quiet down just to let us sleep.

Does this mean we should just throw our hands up in the air and just accept that our quantity and quality of sleep is just going to plummet down the toilet?

Absolutely not.

You’re going need to instill some discipline and focus while adapting to the surroundings that life has dealt you. Here are seven habits to improve your sleeping in the digital age.

1. Develop a bedtime ritual

No matter how good your intentions are, distractions will inevitably arise and steer you off course. With that said, the first step to fail-proof your sleep is to develop a ritual.

NBA players specifically roll the ball around their fingers a certain number of times before attempting a free throw; baseball players spit then kick some dirt while rotating their bat a random amount of times before being ready for the pitch; bowlers even have some weird routines before attempting their roll; the rock band Van Halen wouldn’t allow brown M & M’s backstage of their shows.

Besides being random facts, these are examples of people using specific actions and routines to accomplish their desired habit. Your sleep isn’t any different.

A routine isn’t the actual activity (sleeping), it’s the series of steps taken & initiated to lead to that activity. For Twyla Tharp, the ritual wasn’t her practicing and working out early each and every morning, it was instead the ringing of the alarm clock and hailing of the taxi cab en route to the gym.

When thinking of your sleep routine, pick a couple of actions that will be a signal that’s it’s time for sleep. This could be brewing a nice cup of Chamomile tea (non-caffeine is key here), doing your face wash and other person hygiene task. The specific activities don’t matter, just find a sequence of activities that gets you in the mindset for sleep and nothing else.

2. Turn off electronics 60-90 minutes before bed

In the age that we live in, shutting off our electronics can seem next-too-impossible. We’re attached to our phones, our computer screens, and our television screens.

This might seem trivial, but all of these electronics have an artificial blue light emitting, which throws our hormones off their normal biological cycle (hence the lower quality of sleep).

electronics sleeping in the digital age
There’s a time & place for our electronics.

 

In certain cases, this isn’t going to be possible because of important work assignments and other miscellaneous tasks.

When that’s the case, I recommend you download the free software program Flux (actually you should download it regardless). It’s a program that automatically adjusts the lighting and brightness of your screen based on the time of the day.

3. Put your coffee in timeout

I love coffee and I’m sure it loves me back. It’s become a ritual in my daily life. I’ll have a cup within a few hours of waking. However, I had to learn a lesson the hard way—coffee can’t be consumed like water.

While coffee can help boost our workouts, increase our productivity, and even fight cancer—too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

Here’s the big idea to keep in mind: just because you drink coffee at 8am doesn’t mean it’s gone by 10 am. Coffee has a half-life of around 6 hours. If you’re constantly drinking coffee throughout the day, there’s always going to be caffeine within your system.

The quality of your sleep will be disrupted with a steady late night intake of coffee. Cut off your coffee around 2-3 pm if your normal bedtime is around 10pm. This is hard, as I sometimes break this rule, but for the most part, try to abide by this.

4. Exercise

This is the captain obvious of the group.

Exercise plays a pivotal role in keeping us young and healthy looking, but that’s not where your body transformation is taking place. Exercising is merely tearing your body down while you’re working out and creating micro tears within your muscle fibers.

While sleeping, this is when messages are being sent out within your body while releasing large amounts of hormones to build your body up for next time.

While exercise is key and helps with sleep, it’s also important to exercise at your most optimal time. If you want to get your most ideal sleep, it’s better to exercise earlier in the day.

One of the key reminders about working out before bed is the temporary increase in your body temperature from your workout session. This cool down back to your normal default state is going to last four to six hours.

If you sleep around 10:30 pm, get a workout in around 4:30pm to take advantage of this benefit.

On a random mini rant, the random 2am or late night workout needs to stop.

Why?

Because you’re getting off your normal hormonal cycle. Cortisol (your stress hormone) naturally comes in a big wave in the morning, hence why exercise is beneficial in the morning. Not only does it improve your sleep, but exercising earlier forces a normal release of cortisol to flow in its natural cycle. As the day goes along, cortisol drops and your other normal nighttime hormones take precedence.

5. Spend time with your significant other (i.e. have some more sexy time)

We’re busy with work, useless news, or some other trivial matters which takes us away from the present with our loved ones. Even when we’re with our friends, family, and significant others—we’re not really there. Physically we’re there, but mentally and emotionally, we’re MIA (missing in action).

A few hours before bed is the perfect time to be fully present with your loved ones and friends—not working on work projects. For those of you in a relationship or married, an orgasm is one of the best things to help with your sleep.

Having an orgasm leads to men and women releasing many hormones and chemicals. Oxytocin (aka the cuddle hormone) in a 2003 study in the journal of regulatory peptides was showed to help with sleep due to its calming effects while subsequently countering the effects of cortisol (our stress hormone).

Besides oxytocin, other hormones and chemicals such as norepinephrine, vasopressin, serotonin, and prolactin play a key role in an orgasm.

step into the bedroom- sleeping in the digital age
Once you walk into here, there are only 2 options (everything else must go).

 

I don’t want to leave empty-handednded, here’s a favorite that everyone will love.

6. Read a physical copy of a book

Reading is a great activity to unwind from the day, however, the purpose is defeated if you’re still using a brightly lit iPad or kindle. If that’s all you got, so be it—look into getting some Swannies to block out those blue lights from our devices.

For those with a very busy brain, I suggest going with a fiction book or some type of autobiography for late night reading (try this book if you’re feeling a little sentimental, plus it’s one of my all-time favorites).

Reading business books or any other creative type of book filled with ideas might lead to the opposite objective being met (relaxation). Instead, it’s 3 am and you’re working on your new idea that came from your readings.

7. Meditate

We all have thoughts (it’s been reported that’s it’s close to 50,000 on a daily basis).

Add these 50,000 thoughts plus living in the age of information overload with a hyper-connected society that’s highly stressed out and you have a next-to-none chance of relaxing your monkey brain.

To get some quality sleep, you need to quiet down the chatter going on inside your brain. The best, most practical way that’s healthy for your body is to develop a meditation practice.

Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, you don’t have to subscribe to weird beliefs, adopt a code name,  join a cult, nor sit cross-legged.

Meditation is simply taking a few moments out of your day to quiet your brain, slow down from the busyness of the world, and get back into the present moment.

While I recommend taking time first thing in the morning to meditate before doing anything else—you can meditate while strolling through the park counting each step, washing dishes, taking a shower, or trying some of these techniques right before bed.

The key to meditation is consistency. The more you meditate, the more likely your life will be calmer. Frequency is more important than any specific duration.

I started with ten minutes of meditation using the app, Calm first thing in the morning. I currently meditate for twenty minutes per day (sometimes I split into ten-minute sessions). If ten seems too difficult, try three minutes.


Lastly, here’s a free download of the 7 habits to stick somewhere when you need to remind yourself what to do.

sleep infographic- sleeping in the digital age