Monday, July 20, 2009

Sleep is a forgotten Component of Fitness....

What is sleep? Our society is so busy catching up on life, career and personal things that we forget to sleep! The quality of our days is often heavily influenced by the quality of our nights. I am certainly guilty of it myself at times but at the same time realize how crucial sleep is in terms of a good fitness program and better way of life.

When we sleep well, we are more inclined to live well. Healthy sleep finds us more alert, more refreshed, more productive and most certainly more responsive. When we don't get enough sleep, we become more vulnerable to illness, have more chances of developing diseases,decreasing heart health, increasing accidents, irritability, conflict, and depression. We have less energy and are unable to focus clearly when we constantly get less sleep than needed. So why don't we sleep??

When it comes to time or sleep, time seems to win. Americans have ample reasons to cheat at sleep. We are a time-starved, do-more society! We cheat sleep to give us more time...Time to do more at work, time to do more for others, time to have more fun, or just a little time to be alone. Sometimes we cheat sleep so we can lay awake and worry for an hour or two in the middle of the night.

For nearly 30 million Americans and many more around the globe sleep disorder is an unfortunate reality. Everyone needs to get enough sleep to feel rested and energetic throughout the day. For most this means at least six hours a night and at least 8 or more for teenagers and children. Sleep is a very important behavior that is supersensitive to many things that can disrupt it. Pain, rumination, anxiety, mood disorder, new surroundings, uncomfortable temperature, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and medication side effects can all disrupt a normal night sleep.

-A study conducted at the University of British Columbia suggests that people who sleep less than 5 hours per night are 39% more likely to develop heart disease than those who register a full seven to eight hours per night.

- Inadequate sleep affects the way we make decisions. According to a report from the National Sleep Foundation, at least 2/3 of adults say sleepiness interferes with their concentration and ability to handle stress. That means that we may be more likely to eat in an effort to increase energy or cope with stress. When we are not well rested, we may not exercise at all or exercise at a lower intensity.
A new study has begun to test whether obese adults who get too little sleep will lose weight if they sleep more. Meanwhile, if you feel that you've been fighting an uphill battle trying to manage your weight, test yourself! Find something that relaxes you before bed, and make seven to eight hours of sleep nightly a priority. You’ve got nothing to lose by increasing the amount you sleep as part of an overall healthy lifestyle!

- Several studies show that lack of sleep seems to change the levels of two appetite-related hormones. A hormone called ghrelin that stimulates appetite may increase, and the hormone leptin that tells our body we have had enough food may decrease. Together these changes would lead us to feel we need to eat more, even when we may have consumed all the calories we need. Some research suggests that other hormones, including those affecting blood sugar, may also be affected by lack of sleep.

- Before quickly blaming our bathroom scales for unexplained weight gain, it's important to make sure that we're spending enough time lost in peaceful dreams. Researchers at the University of Chicago have determined that sleep deprivation (even in the most modest amounts) can interfere with how efficiently the body regulates the release of cortisol.

This stress-related hormone is produced by the adrenal gland, and plays a significant role in hunger, stress and appetite. What's worse, excessive cortisol levels can interfere with the production of serotonin. As a result, we may feel depressed and hungry - even in situations when we've eaten to the point of being full.

- Sleep May Prevent Cancer: People working the late shift have a higher risk for breast and colon cancer. Researchers believe this link is caused by differing levels of melatonin in people who are exposed to light at night. Light exposure reduces the level of melatonin, a hormone that both makes us sleepy and is thought to protect against cancer. Melatonin appears to suppress the growth of tumors. Be sure that your bedroom is dark to help your body produce the melatonin it needs.

- Sleep Reduces Stress: When your body is sleep deficient, it goes into a state of stress. The body's functions are put on high alert which causes an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones. Higher blood pressure increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes. The stress hormones also, unfortunately, make it harder for you to sleep. Learn relaxation techniques to counter the effects of stress.


• Accept the limits of your energy. You can only produce so much.
• STOP being a makes you boring anyway!
• Establish boundaries with friends, relatives, co-workers, and bosses.
• Learn to say "no."
• Give yourself the same slack you allow others

Sleep habits are the key to getting a good night’s sleep. We can either train ourselves to fall asleep quickly every night, or we can train ourselves to lie awake in bed through bad habits. Exercise, caffeine, alcohol, stress and other factors can influence the quantity and quality of our sleep. Changing your sleep habits can lead to greatly improve sleep quality and quantity.

If changing your sleep habits doesn’t help, you may have a sleep disorder. The most common sleep disorders include the following(for which you would need to go to a sleep center):
• Insomnia
• Sleep apnea
• Restless Legs Syndrome
• Narcolepsy

There is a myth that people need less sleep as they age. This is simply not true: Older adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. However, good sleep is harder to get as we age because of health conditions, medications and other reasons. Protecting your sleep as you age will give you more energy and better health.

Napping can be a great way to increase your sleep and improve your energy. Napping has been shown to increase productivity and even protect against heart disease. Napping strategies will help you take effective, short naps and then go back to your day recharged.

Getting the rest we need keeps our eyes bright and our energy levels high. Moreover, sleep is an integral element of training. Without enough, your body simply won't have the time or biological resources to reach its full potential.

"Believe it or not, that groggy feeling you experience after a night of tossing and turning all night has a physiological explanation. Somewhere between the time our head hits the pillow to the time we hurl blunt objects at our alarm clocks, our brain's third shift goes to work.

Their job, in a nutshell, is to repair damaged cells, replenish neurotransmitters, restore our immune system and recharge us for the following day. Not getting the sleep you need prevents these absolutely imperative processes from taking place. This can ultimately leaves you dazed, down, and uninspired.

Instinctively, millions of people turn to OTC (over-the-counter) sleep aids and alcohol to quickly eliminate the problem. Not only does this discourage one's ability to establish natural sleeping patters, it can also leave you feeling more tired and sluggish throughout the day. And while there's no magic formula to winning the insomnia battle, there are alternatives."

Use Aromatherapy

Dozing off after a grueling workout can be a tall order. One of the most tucked away secrets among many elite athletes is the use of essential oils such as Lavender, Chamomile, Sandalwood, Oregano and others with natural "calming" properties that can help induce peaceful sleep.

There are a number of ways to incorporate essential oils into your sleep routine, though the most popular are through mist and diffusion. Adding a few drops to a muscle soak is also popular. You can try adding Lavender to your pillows 2-3x times a week. It's surprisingly effective.

Try Sedative Herbs

Sedative herbs and extracts such as valerian, kava, skullcap, and passionflower are safe, natural, and have been successful in helping many find rest without resorting to potentially habit forming OTC sleep aids, prescription medications and alcohol.

Develop A Sleep Ritual

Lack of preparation is honestly one of the most common pre-sleep mistakes a person can make. Trying to accomplish everything on our daily to-do list can leave us scrambling around at hours that should be spent preparing mind and body for slumber. And while there's no definitive formula that defines a good "nighttime" ritual, the most important things to consider are the amount of noise, light and stress you're exposed to.

All in all, find the time to sleep and take better care of yourselves. This will make a huge difference in your lifestyle!

Cindy Lai Fitness


"Benefits of a good night's sleep" By: Jayson Kroner,
"Sleep is a forgotten component of Fitness" By: BJ Johnson,
"Why Sleep Matters to you" By: Mark Stibich, PH.D, May 8,2009,
"More Studies Link Lack of Sleep to Overweight", By: Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
October 23, 2006, American Institute for Cancer Research
Archives of Internal Medicine


  1. i can always feel the difference when i don't get enough sleep. if it's one night, i'm usually okay, but more than that catches up with me. i start to feel irratible, unenergized, hungry, unmotivated. the usual culprit, caffeine in the afternoon or evening. it's taken me a while to realize how sensitive i am to caffeine. even if i have dark chocolate in the evening, it can affect my sleep!

    thanks for this article cindy! we all need to be reminded how important sleep is!

  2. After tiring day, everyone would like to just sleep. But sometimes because of stress and tensions, we don't get good sleep. There are some plants and herbs which helps to reduce stress and tension like for example, mango, lemon and lavender helps to reduce stress, linalool helps to ease strain and anxiety. For more information and tips on it, refer How do you sleep

  3. If you are suffering from sleep problems such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, you need to consider this problem seriously and adopt specific measures at the earliest to get back your sleep. Regular exercising is one of the options to ensure sound sleep at night. Altogether, if you are unable to get adequate sleep during night, you can undertake certain initiatives to overcome your sleep problems such as fixing your sleeping as well as waking schedule and abstaining from alcohol, nicotine, tea, coffee et al before hitting the bed.