The power of sleep. (CLICK HERE FULL view)
Why sleep is so important, and how to get more of it.
Sleep brings us good health, enhancing our body, mind and spirit. We spend one-third of our lives asleep but a whole lot of activity is going on during this period.
- Repair occurs at the cellular level. While we sleep, muscle’s rebuild, red blood cells that carry oxygen rich blood (energy) are created, and wounds are healed. As a result, our immune system becomes stronger, our blood pressure is lower and our body has lower inflammation rates that would have otherwise damaged our blood vessels and led to heart disease.
- Learning is solidified and memories are processed. Knowledge, understanding and retention is improved. Think about how forgetful you are when you miss a few nights of restful sleep.
- Hormones are balanced, including those that help you maintain a healthy weight! When you are sleep deprived, the hormones that regulate appetite become out of balance. You may end up eating more calories by reaching for foods that are higher in fat and carbohydrates. Hormones that prevent you from becoming depressed and anxious are also balanced.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep each night. People who short themselves on a regular basis, live shorter, more sickly lives. The most important phase of sleep is the REM (rapid eye movement cycle). Each REM cycle lasts 90-120 minutes and most adults average 4-5 REM’s per night. Infants spend 50% of their sleep in REM, whereas adults average only 20% REM sleep. REM decreases with aging.
What causes lack of sleep, impairing important REM cycles? A host of factors including too much light, stress, the time of your work shift, sleep apnea (often caused by excess weight), frequent urination, menopause, excess brain stimulation before bedtime (computer or video games) and certain medications. Poor nutrition (caffeine, excess sugar, alcohol) and lack of adequate exercise are also key factors that negatively impact a restful night’s sleep.
Are you interested in better health? Sleep on it and get back to me in the morning.
How to Get Better
Sleep as a Runner
Catching more quality Z's can make
you a stronger, better runner.
Status Update: Late night last night. Still managed to
get up at 4, knock out an 18-miler, and get the kids to
school on time.
Status Update: Didn't get enough sleep this week.
Stayed in bed for an extra hour and skipped my run.
Let's say these two status updates showed up on
your Facebook or dailymile feed. Which would
get more "likes"? If you're like many runners
(and most Americans), you probably admire the
badass who fought through fatigue to complete
her run and suspect that the slumbering beauty
is a slacker.
Our society views sleep as a luxury, at best. Many
people think that revealing your need for it marks
you as a weakling, says John Caldwell, Ph.D., a
psychologist who has researched sleep deprivation
and fatigue for NASA and the U.S. military. "We
think if you're really a good athlete, that means you'
re tough and you'll take whatever life throws your
way," Caldwell says. "Part of being tough is not
needing to sleep."
By that line of reasoning, some of the country's top
marathoners rank as total slouches. After all, Ryan
Hall pens naps in his calendar as "business meetings,"
and both Deena Kastor and Shalane Flanagan log as
much as 10 hours of shut-eye a night. They clearly
understand what science is increasingly revealing:
It's during sleep that your body recovers from hard
training and builds you into a better runner.
Indeed, recent research suggests that just one night
of bad rest can have an impact (albeit largely psycho
-logical) on your running performance. Meanwhile,
chronically shorting yourself of even an hour of
sleep per night has cumulative negative effects on
your running and your health. "Sleep is as important
as your workouts," says Joe English, a running coach
in Portland, Oregon, and the National Advisory coach
to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team
in Training. "When you start robbing from that pot to
get everything else done, the quality of your training
--and of everything else--starts to fall apart."
No lab test can tell you exactly how many hours of
sleep you need--the number varies widely by
individual. But the average adult needs between seven
and nine hours each night, says Matthew Edlund, M.D.,
director of the Center for Circadian Medicine in
Sarasota, Florida, and author of The Power of Rest.
Not surprisingly, how much you run impacts how
much you need to sleep, but it's not a simple more-
means-more equation. Research has linked moderate
exercise to higher-quality, more efficient slumber-
-possibly by increasing levels of a compound called
adenosine that promotes sleep. And so, people log-
ging moderate mileage might actually need less
sleep than those who don't run at all. But as anyone
who's ever trained for a half-marathon or longer can
attest, sleep needs can change at the start of a new
running program or in the midst of a tough training
cycle, says Cheri Mah, M.S., a Stanford University
sleep researcher. There's not yet a handy chart for
correlating weekly mileage to required hours of sleep.
Your body will likely supply some cues when you
don't get enough. You're likely short on Z's if you fall
asleep the second your head hits the pillow, you find
yourself dozing off during meetings or at the movies,
you rely on caffeine to get through the day, or you hit
the snooze button more than once. "If your body is
literally going back to sleep immediately after being
asleep all night long, you are probably not getting
enough sleep," says Robert Oexman, D.C., a runner
and the director of the Sleep to Live Institute in
Mebane, North Carolina.
Ignore these signals at your peril. "When you don't
obtain your required amount of sleep, it can build
up like a debt, almost like a credit card," Mah says.
Most of us have racked up some--the most recent
national survey shows that about 40 percent of
Americans sleep six hours or less each night.
"Over time," Mah says, "that accumulated debt can
affect performance and mood."
While You Are Dreaming
Night after night of restricted (or interrupted) sleep-
-where you rest some, but not enough--sets off a
cascade of hormonal shifts with harmful biological
effects. Within a week or two, you'll have higher
levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein
and the stress hormone cortisol, keeping your heart
rate higher and your nervous system on constant alert.
Human growth hormone, which repairs muscle and
bones, is secreted by your pituitary gland during
deep sleep, says Shelby Harris, Psy.D., director of the
Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore
Medical Center in the Bronx. The less sleep you get,
the lower your levels--and the slower your recovery
from workouts or minor aches and pains. Your
muscles' ability to store glycogen for energy declines,
meaning you risk running out of gas no matter how
much you carb-load, says Harris, who is also a runner.
There is also some research that indicates your risk
for injury goes up if you don't get enough shut-eye.
Sleep also serves as a time for memory consolidation,
Dr. Edlund explains--and not just for cognitive skills,
like math or Spanish. "Running is a very big learning
experience," he says. As you train, your brain takes
in information about the world around you, the way
muscles and nerves must work together to power
each stride, and the way your body position shifts in
space (proprioception), he explains. It's during sleep
that you process, synthesize, and catalog these details,
and skimping means the memory-related areas of
your brain don't file away as much as they should.
Being sleep-deprived doesn't just make you tired, but
also jittery, achy, and injury-prone. There's no magic
number of hours that protects you from poor
performance or from running-related pains--again,
everyone's sleep needs differ, Dr. Edlund says. But
the more nights you get less than your required
amount, the greater the potential consequences to
And in the bigger picture, you're probably harming
your overall health, too. Sleep deprivation throws
your hunger hormones out of whack, increasing
levels of the hunger-inducing ghrelin and decreasing
satiating leptin, Harris says, which in turn may cause
you to eat more and gain weight. In addition, not
getting ample sleep suppresses the immune system
(leaving you susceptible to infection); your mood
can sink down into the dumps; and your risk for
developing chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes,
Toss and Turn, Crash and Burn?
Runners know insomnia is common the night before
a big race. But they take comfort from this often
dispensed piece of wisdom: "It's not your sleep the
night before a race--it's the night before the night
before that counts." Anecdotal evidence bears this
out. No one sleeps much the night before an
Olympic race, says Paula Schnurr, (Images for
Paula Schnurr ) who ran the 1500 meters for
Canada in the 1996 Summer Games.
Few first-time marathoners rest well either, English
says. But many perform well anyway, fueled by
race-day excitement and adrenaline.
Research supports this hypothesis, to a degree. When
scientists keep people up all night and then ask them
to cycle, lift weights, or run on a treadmill, they can
do it just as well as when they've slept. But
interestingly, they report that each mile or rep feels
harder and they often don't want to put forth the effort.
"In order to run a good race, you have to be in a state
of mind where you're going to push it," Caldwell says.
"We've known for years that sleep deprivation
typically doesn't really affect absolute things like
muscle contractions, speed, and power. But it
definitely affects your willingness to perform your
best." When you head out for a training run sleep-
deprived and with no cheering crowds or competition,
these deficits could lead you to slack. As a result,
you might not give your body a strong enough
stimulus to adapt and improve your running, English
says. What's more, lack of sleep impairs cognitive
function and reaction times, which could put you at
risk of a collision if you're crossing busy streets or
running on a crowded path or rocky trail, says board
certified neurologist Lev Grinman, M.D., the medical
director at HomeSleep, LLC in Paramus, New Jersey.
In fact, if you've slept fewer than about six hours, you
might benefit more from staying in bed an hour longer
than from forcing yourself to stumble out on a run, says
Shawn Youngstedt, Ph.D., an exercise physiology
researcher at the University of South Carolina, who is
also a runner. Even top coaches and athletes sometimes
follow this guidance. Schnurr--now the head track
coach at McMaster University in Ontario--says she
can tell when her student athletes show up to practice
without having slept well. She often modifies their
workouts or sends them home from practice entirely,
knowing they wouldn't reap the benefits of a tough
training session while sleep-deprived.
Many people can bounce back quickly from one or
two nights of poor rest. But performing well gets
harder the longer you're deprived. "I've had some
really good races after I didn't sleep for one night, but
I've never had a good block of training while sleeping
poorly for a few months," says Hansons-Brooks
athlete and former NCAA 5K champion Bobby Curtis,
who has suffered from bouts of insomnia.
Avoid an Energy Crisis
When Mah asked Stanford basketball players to sleep
up to 10 hours a night for five to seven weeks, they
performed better on the court. She found similar
results in swimmers, too. Now, spending almost half
the day in bed isn't a luxury most of us can afford-
-and it may not even be necessary. Your body's
optimal amount could be seven hours; it could be
eight. Harris recommends determining your ideal
sleep pattern when you have a weeklong vacation or
other situation that doesn't require a strict schedule:
Don't use an alarm clock, wake up naturally, and
take note of what time you went to sleep and got up.
By the fourth day, you'll have caught up on sleep
debt; take the average amount of sleep you get on
nights four through seven for a good estimate of your
true needs, she says. Once you've figured out about
how much sleep your body naturally wants, schedule
your bedtime in advance, just like you would any
other commitment, Caldwell advises.
Mah says that runners can still benefit from "sleep-
loading"--getting extra shut-eye in the week or two
before beginning a training program that ramps up
your mileage. Committing to just a half hour more
each night to pay off your sleep debt in between
training cycles enables you to kick off a new program
refreshed and strong. "That's a half hour less texting
or checking your e-mail, or DVR-ing your favorite
late-night show and watching it another time," Mah
says. And, of course, there's the chance that you'll
feel so good during this period of time that you might
decide to make an earlier bedtime permanent.
Without ever intending for it to happen, many people
find themselves caught up in the modern-day whirl-
wind of activity and overload. Our culture is defined
by go-go-go and despite being blessed with many
labor-saving devices, these only serve to actually
make us even more busy — for the faster we’re able
to get things done, the more we take on, and the
more we take on, the more we have to do,
increasing our busyness factor to even greater
levels than before.
In many ways, this type of lifestyle has created a
“culturally induced ADD” — sending you off every
which way, promising to fill your life with lots of
action but not much substance. The constant go-go
-go gives a false sense of accomplishment that you
are doing stuff, but despite all of the hullabaloo, at
the end of it you’re not left with much.
Sadly enough, it doesn’t look like we can turn to
modern society for help and technology has only
proven to exacerbate the problem. The solution,
surprisingly, can be found in the wisdom from
societies and teachings of centuries past and is
accomplished by setting apart one day per week that
is dedicated as a “day of rest.”
In the Judeo-Christian world for example, their day
of rest is the Sabbath ï¿½ one day out of seven
devoted to rest, reflection and recommitment. In the
Buddhist tradition they practice Uposatha a similar
concept where one day per week is set apart for “the
cleansing of the defiled mind,” resulting in inner joy.
Whether you are religious, spiritual, or atheist it
doesn’t matter — all can benefit from the principle
behind this practice.
Automobiles and machines in general do not
function at their optimal levels unless they are
regularly tuned up. Our body, mind, heart, and spirit
follows the same principle. It has been proven many
times over that constantly pushing yourself only
leads to burnout, breakdown and eventual disease.
The ever-increasing pace of our modern society is
only making this deterioration pass by quicker. The
solution is to give ourselves regular “tune-ups” by
making the habit of setting aside our own personal
day of rest. A Sabbath day if you will.
So what exactly do you do on a day of rest? Do you
just loaf around all day or sleep the day through?
Well, maybe if that’s what you need. But perhaps
you’ll have a better idea of what you might decide to
do if I share with you some of the activities that are
part of my weekly “tune-up.”
Here are some of the things I like to do on my day
Reflect on the week gone by.
Plan for the upcoming week.
Review prior goals and set new ones.
Read in the “wisdom literature” of the past.
Enjoy “quiet time” in nature by myself or with my
Meditate or pray
Take a nap (however, since doing Polyphasic
sleeping**, this has become a regular activity)
All in all, your day or rest should be a day to leave
the week behind you. To stop working or even
thinking about work. It should be a different day
from all the rest. One that you look forward to with
excitement and expectation. It’s a day to stop
looking to the outside world for distraction or
entertainment. It’s a day to be quiet, to sit back and
reflect on all the gifts and blessings of your life and
the things which you take for granted. It’s a day for
nature and beauty and spirituality; a day for family,
friends and God.
A day of rest doesn’t affect us only when we are
resting. It spills over into our weeks, our months,
and our entire lives. Even the most difficult of weeks
becomes tolerable because you know that this day is
just over the horizon.
If you make the habit of doing this regularly, I
promise that it will improve your health, strengthen
your relationships, sharpen your mind and revive
your spirit. That’s a lot to promise, I know. But that
is the power of your day of rest.
(Polyphasic Sleep**Today marks the first day in
my experiment to become a polyphasic sleeper.
For those who are not familiar with it,
‘polyphasic sleep’ refers to several alternative
sleep patterns which are intended to reduce
sleep time to 2-6 hours daily.
The practitioner achieves this by spreading out sleep
into short naps of around 15-45 minutes throughout
the day, with some variations allowing a core sleep
period of a few hours at night.
I originally heard about this while I was in
Washington D.C. 4 years ago. My co-worker and I
were talking about how busy we were and I remember
telling him how great it would be if we didn’t need
To my surprise he said that it is indeed possible and
then went on to tell me about his roommate who,
while at the University of Michigan, “took small naps
throughout the day,” only sleeping around 2 hours in
total. He called it the Da Vinci sleep schedule. His
roommate had so much extra time that he was able
to finish three Bachelor degrees and one Associates
in a four-year period!
Quite intrigued, I began doing some research into
‘Da Vinci sleep’ and found some great information
on what many refer to as the ‘Uberman’ sleep
schedule on Kuro5hin’s and everything2′s website .
The basic idea behind it is that you can force your
body to compress the necessary sleep stages (REM
being the most important they say) into a 20-min
sleep unit. By spreading six of these concentrated
sleep units throughout the day, you can supposedly
experience better and more effective sleep than on
a typical 8-hour schedule that most people try to
With a little information under my belt, I quickly
tried to adapt to Uberman sleep back then but
soon realized that my work schedule just didn’t
allow it. I wasn’t able to consistently take the
required naps — a huge no-no if you want to be
successful with this.
Since then, I’ve gotten married, had a child, and
although I’m working at a different job, my
schedule with my family and work is even less
flexible. However, last week I found a variant on
the ‘Uberman’ sleep schedule (what some refer to
as the ‘Everyman’ sleep schedule) where you take
four (instead of six) naps throughout the day and
supplement them with a 3-hour core sleep period
Not only is this doable with my work schedule (I’ll
only need to nap once during lunch), but my wife
is happy because I still go to bed with her at night
— at least for a few hours. I’ve also read that it is
easier to adapt to this schedule than to the Uberman
one — another bonus :) .
Essentially I’ll be attempting to sleep around
4 hours a day, made up of one 3-hour period of
sleep (for me that will be 11pm to 2am) followed
by three 20-min naps spread throughout the day
(7am, 12pm, and 7pm).
So what is the reasoning behind all this? Well for
one, I love to try out new things. Experiments
that others find to be weird intrigue me (take the
Lemonade Diet^^ for example). Another thing is,
I’ve realized in order for me to achieve some of the
goals I have in mind without sacrificing time spent
with my family, I’m simply going to need more of it.
This seems to be a welcome solution.
So with that in mind, I’ll be posting daily over the
next few days as I relate to you my experience
attempting to adapt to the ‘Everyman’ sleep-schedule.
Master Cleanse (Lemonade Diet^^
Quick weight loss.
Drop 20 pounds in 10 days and cleanse your body of toxins.
If you give up solid foods and consume only fluids, weight loss (at least in the short-term) is inevitable.