#266 Good Night, and Good Sleep

Tell a friend

I have never taken any exercise
except sleeping and resting.

Mark Twain

10 Tips for Restful Sleep

By Steve Edwards

SleepWe talk a lot about the importance of recovery from exercise and how vital it is for our body transformation goals. Today we'll address the most important of these recovery modalities, sleep. Dreamland is where we make the most dramatic changes in our body's physiology. Those changes are directly related to what we do when we're awake but, if we don't take the precautions to ensure we get a good night's rest, our hard work can get sidetracked. So let's take a brief look at what happens to us when we sleep and how our daily lifestyle can improve this fitness process.

Approximately 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from sleep-related problems, according to the National Academy of Sleep. They also conclude that we lose around $100 billion annually in lost productivity and damages as a result of this. Lack of sleep affects concentration, memory, stress levels, alertness, and physical ability. It also affects our fitness results.

While we're at rest

When we're awake, our body is constantly wearing down. During sleep, our body varies its behavior to rebuild itself even more efficiently. Among other things, we make more proteins and release hormones at different rates. So while we tend to think of sleep as a passive process, it's actually very active.

BrainIt all begins with our brain. Instead of shutting down for the night, our brain signals our body about what to do during the various stages of sleep. In short, neurotransmitters (one you've probably heard of is serotonin) signal the body that it's time to switch modes. Once this occurs, our body begins a five-stage rebuilding process that we call sleep.

  • Stage 1 is light sleep. You've probably experienced this during boring classes in school. Your body is barely asleep, your eyes move slightly, and you're easily awakened, usually with a startled "jump." During this stage, you'll often have dream-like visuals.

  • Stage 2 is when the eye movements stop and your brain waves begin to slow down.

  • Brain WavesStage 3 begins deep sleep, as very slow brain waves, called delta waves, take over the more rapid brain waves, called sleep spindles.

  • Stage 4 is a deep state where all muscle movements stop. It's hard to be woken during this state, and when you are, you're often in a groggy, disoriented condition.

  • Stage 5 is called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. In this stage, your breathing becomes shallow, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, your eyes jerk rapidly in all directions, and you have your wildest dreams.

We sleep in cycles wherein all five stages are completed in around one-and-a-half to two hours. As the cycles increase, we spend less time in deep sleep and more in stages 1, 2, and REM.

We tend to be more interested in studying our dreams and how they affect our psyche than in what else goes on during sleep. But all five stages of sleep are vital for maximum recovery. Furthermore, since each stage duration tends to vary during the night, subsequent cycles are also important. In each stage, some functions get shut down in order to funnel more resources to others. Since we can't do this while awake, sleep is the most efficient state of recovery.

While we're awake

CoffeeThe main things that affect our sleep are food, exercise, medications, chemicals, and temperature. The neurotransmitters that tell us to sleep are all influenced by these factors and can be misled. Some of the more obvious examples of things that affect our sleep are caffeine, which we often consume when we want to stay awake, and medications, which usually provide warnings on their labels. But what's also important to consider here is how some of these things affect our sleep cycles. Certainly "sleep aids," such as alcohol, make it easier to fall asleep but harder to get into deep sleep. Let's take a look at 10 ways we can improve our lifestyle to promote more thorough and restful sleep.

  1. Chalene's Turbo Jam®Exercise regularly. Like we weren't going to say this! But, really, nothing promotes sleepiness like bodily damage, and exercise is an efficient way of breaking down your system in such a way that it can easily repair itself and grow stronger. If you're looking for an intense workout—one that may just promote sleepiness—try P90X® or Turbo Jam® Maximum Results. Regular exercise puts your body into a habit of wanting to recover at night. If you exercise enough, your body will protest and fall asleep on the spot.

    The only downside to exercise can be if it's done before bed. This is a response that varies with each individual. Some people can fall asleep immediately after a workout (a great recovery aid is a midday nap), but many are affected by the endorphin rush and can't get to sleep right away. It's something you should experiment with before slotting your workout into the evening hours.

  2. Diet MealEat better. Like we weren't going to say this too. But your overall diet also plays an important role in your sleep patterns. Many "bad" foods, as well as gorging yourself, will make you tired, but don't be swayed by this illusion. Swooning energy levels due to bad food may help you fall asleep but, a lot like alcohol, it will affect your sleep cycle and you won't sleep as well or as long as you should. A diet consisting of mainly whole foods will keep your energy levels constant and help your body swing toward more natural cycles and sleep patterns. You can follow these "5 Rules for a Healthy Diet."

  3. WaterStay hydrated. The downside of drinking too much water may be waking up in the night to go to the bathroom, but this is offset by the upside, which is heat regulation as your body goes through its various sleep stages. A dehydrated body can't sleep or recover well, and dehydration is one of the major factors involved in the hung-over state you may find yourself in after a bout of drinking.

  4. Sleep in a cool, dark place. Each person's tolerance levels vary, but most everyone sleeps better in an environment that's both cool and dark. Turn your bedroom into a peaceful place that's designed for sleep.

  5. TeaWind down in the evening. A nighttime ritual can greatly increase your chances for restful sleep. A light stretching session along with some calming reading and herb tea is a common recipe for sleepy time. Do keep in mind that watching the latest UFC match or reading provocative literature may have the opposite effect on your brain. For an effective Beachbody way to wind down, try Pajama Time from Yoga Booty Ballet® Master Series.

  6. Learn to not use an alarm. While this isn't always possible, if you get your lifestyle in order, your sleep pattern shouldn't require an alarm. Even if you wake up at a crazy hour to go to work, your body will get used to it if you get into a schedule. The only time you should need to use an alarm is for special occasions.

  7. DrinkingDon't drink or smoke at night. I realize that this is when most of you will drink and smoke if that's what you do. Since it may be difficult to change, perhaps consider changing your patterns. Habitual smokers tend to sleep only three to four hours at a time, which is also the case when you're intoxicated. To offset this, begin to cut back as the evening progresses and hydrate. Just taking enough time to begin the restorative processes prior to bed can greatly lessen the effects of drinking and smoking and help you sleep better.

  8. Don't go to bed at a certain time. Go to bed when you're tired. Forcing yourself to stay awake creates the wrong brain signals, as can going to bed too early. There are times we all force ourselves to stay awake or sleep early, but try not to make this your default mode. By listening and responding to your body's signals you're creating habits that you should live by. You'll probably end up going to bed around the same time anyway—you'll just have less stress.

  9. Sleeping PillsUse sleep medications only as a last resort. Most sleeping medications are habit forming and have side effects. Of course, most doctors will tell you this, but you must also consider that the companies that make these drugs offer incentives for those who prescribe them. Be wary of the information you get. There are times when sleep medication can be handy, but it should always only be an option. It should never be a lifestyle.

  10. ActiVit® MultivitaminsSupplement your diet. Besides herb teas, such as valerian root, you can use supplements to further ensure that your body has the nutrients it needs to get a full night's rest. A multivitamin, like Beachbody's ActiVit® Multivitamins or P90X® Peak Health Formula, will help ensure that you have the high-quality vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants your body needs to stay healthy. Ensuring that your mineral balance is correct will further enable you to sleep through the night. You can make a good sleep aid with some calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C (which helps your body absorb minerals). Three hundred to 500 mg of potassium and magnesium, 500 to 750 mg of calcium, and 500 to 1,000 mg of vitamin C are amounts with which you'll want to experiment.

Steve Edwards If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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4 Ways Exercise Boosts Your Brain

By Jordana Haspel

Kids LearningIt may seem like a strange question—does working out have anything to do with how smart you are? But more and more research is suggesting that the answer is a resounding "Yes." Exercising can do everything from slowing the aging process to helping children learn to read (for more, read "Diet, Exercise, and Your Kid's Grades"). So if you're having trouble motivating yourself to trim your tummy, maybe you can do it to build your brain.

What does exercising do for your brain?

  1. Older Person LearningPrevents memory loss. As we get older, our brain density decreases. In mice, exercising causes them to grow new brain cells, and recent studies suggest that the same happens to people. Working out can help stave off memory loss and preserve higher-order thinking. Another study indicates that exercising can help prevent Alzheimer's. So don't forget to work out with one of Beachbody's fitness videos like Slim in 6® or Hip Hop Abs™!

  2. All A's. Exercising increases blood flow to the brain, bringing it more oxygen and glucose. The increased brain activity carries over to learning; several studies have shown that kids who exercise regularly also do better in school. Exercising helps improve balance, spatial relations, and rhythm—skills that can help with reading and language acquisition.

  3. Kids Running AroundDon't worry, be happy. Exercising helps relieve anxiety and depression, sometimes as well as or better than medications. Some doctors are even using exercise to help treat learning disorders (like dyslexia) and attention deficit disorder (ADD). And the effects of exercise on your mood last as long as you continue to exercise, helping prevent relapses of mood disorders.

  4. Longevity. Reducing your brain's exposure to insulin may increase your lifespan. One way to get that insulin down? Living a healthy lifestyle (read this for 10 life-extending foods). There are so many health benefits you can get from exercising, many of which can extend your life, that this new information hardly sounds like news.

Tony & the Kids!A lot of the research on the subject has been done on children. After all, they're the ones we normally associate with learning. And getting them into fitness when they're young will help them learn to make exercise a part of their lives. Tony & the Kids! is an effective way to get children excited about exercising. That doesn't mean the brain benefits of working out only apply to children, however. Young to old, exercising can sharpen your wits while it slims your hips. Of course, all of these brain-boosting effects only occur with regular exercise, so Keep Pushing Play!

Jordana Haspel If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Sleep IQ!

By Joe Wilkes
  1. Odd SleepingHow many minutes does it take the average person to fall asleep? Seven minutes. People who fall asleep in less than five minutes are more likely to be sleep-deprived. Ideally, a person should fall asleep in about 10 to 15 minutes. This means they are sleepy, but not exhausted, and are less likely to be groggy when they wake up.

  2. How many dreams does the average person experience each night? The average person experiences about five dreams a night, ranging in length from 10 to 45 minutes, with dreams generally lasting longer as the night progresses. Non-REM dreams are generally repetitive and dull, while REM dreams have the crazier, more vivid plots.

  3. Tired EyesWho is more prone to insomnia—women or men? Women are 20 to 50 percent more likely to suffer insomnia than men.

  4. How long can the average human being live without sleep? The average person can only live for 10 days without sleep, as opposed to several weeks without food. However, the longest waking period on record is 18 days, 21 hours, and 40 minutes.

  5. Sleeping KangarooWhich country's citizens sleep the most and the least? Australians sleep the most, with 31 percent reporting more than nine hours of sleep per night. The Japanese sleep the least, with 41 percent getting less than six hours of sleep a night. Seven of the 10 most nocturnal nations are in Asia, but the real party animals are in Portugal, where 75 percent stay up past midnight. (From Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health by Dr. Michael Breus)

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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