By: Matt Weik
Many things can affect your health (good and bad) and sleep is one of them. Those who focus on their health and fitness levels have a means of tracking their progress and determining factors such as weight, lean muscle mass, body fat, body measurements, strength, blood profile, etc. Yet, not many people focus on their sleep. Should you monitor your sleep? Absolutely and here's why and how.
If you aren't getting enough sleep, there's a laundry list of negative side effects, but for the sake of this article, we are going to focus on how it can affect your health and weight. It is recommended that you get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. While many will laugh at that number as they like to burn the midnight oil and get things done late at night when things are quiet around the house, not getting enough sleep can do more harm than good.
What happens if you don’t monitor your sleep or get enough?
It should come as no surprise but if you aren’t getting enough sleep each night, you’re going to wake up the next morning without any energy. You’ll feel lethargic, unmotivated, and likely to skip your workout due to it. In addition, lack of sleep can lower libido and sex drive. For all of those reasons, you should monitor your sleep – especially if you find yourself waking up without feeling refreshed or if you know you were restless and didn’t sleep well.\
The next two go hand-in-hand. When you don’t monitor your sleep and aren’t getting enough, it can throw off your hormone levels. More specifically, cortisol (a stress hormone). Unfortunately, cortisol has a domino effect once the levels become elevated. When cortisol levels rise, ghrelin (a hunger hormone) also rises until leptin (what makes you feel satiated) can finally send a signal to the brain telling it that you’re full. With an increase in ghrelin, you’re going to feel hungry and it can lead you to the next side effect.
When you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin levels can stay elevated daily. This will cause you to feel hungry all day long which can lead to overeating and putting yourself in a caloric surplus. If this continues, you may find you are quickly putting on weight and body fat. Unfortunately, during this time where ghrelin is elevated, you’re going to be craving all of the goodies you know you shouldn’t be eating such as sweets and unhealthy fatty foods.
Looking at the various stages of sleep, you have five. The first two stages are considered light sleep, stages 3-4 are known as deep sleep, and the final stage is known as rapid eye movement sleep (REM).
If you were to monitor your sleep, you would be able to see the actual transitions from one stage to another.
In this stage, you are drifting in and out of sleep. A slight noise could wake you up and pull you out of the first stage.
At this stage, all movement and activity start slowing down – both eye and muscle. Your body temperature and heart rate also start to drop to help you transition into the next stage which is deep sleep.
Stage 3 is where you are in a state of deep sleep. This stage has brain waves that are both fast and slow intermixing for the time being.
This stage is also considered deep sleep. However, at this stage is where only slow brain waves are produced, and it transitions into the last stage.
The final stage of sleep is rapid eye movement and it’s where your brain is extremely active which causes the movement of your eyes even though they are closed and you’re asleep. Here is where you have vivid dreams.
There are plenty of devices out on the market that can help monitor your sleep. Some of these devices get placed under your mattress where they monitor your movement, breathing, etc.
Then you have some wearable devices such as the Apple Watch which you can wear when you sleep to monitor your patterns and behaviors (you’ll need to download a sleep app in order to monitor your sleep).
All of these devices will generally link up to an app that will create a dashboard where you can view various nights, the stages of sleep, how long you were in each stage, an overall sleep score/rating, and total time asleep.
If you want to focus on getting better sleep and making sure that you monitor your sleep to optimize your health and performance, there are a few strategies you can easily implement tonight to help you sleep better.
Your body is better able to relax at night when the temperature is on the cool side. The room doesn’t need to be “cold” but by dropping the thermostat a few degrees, turning on the fan, or opening a window should be enough to help the body slip into a deep sleep.
Using an app to monitor your sleep can show how various noises may wake you up in the middle of the night and can ruin your sleep. Some of the apps and devices you use to monitor your sleep can record when a noise is detected which would allow you to know exactly what woke you up or if you were snoring during the night.
You can easily be woken up from the first few stages of sleep by noises in your house or outside. If you find you are a light sleeper, you definitely want to block out the noise. This can be accomplished by using something like earplugs (not total noise cancellation due to safety issues), a noise machine that plays white noise, or something soothing in the background that can help you relax.
Light entering your room and illuminating it is enough to stimulate the brain and keep you awake. Make sure your lights are off in your room as well as blocking all exterior light that could be shining in from streetlights, the moon, or cars passing by. It may be a good investment if exterior light is an issue to invest in “blackout blinds” or drapes that are custom fit to your windows specifications. These do an amazing job of blocking out all the light and will ensure your room is pitch dark.
The first thing is blue light. Researchers have found that blue light emitted by your devices can cause you to stay awake at night and interrupt your sleep. That’s only part of the reason you need to turn off your devices. The second is that they are distracting. From emails, to text messages, and social media, the chances of your phone ringing, dinging, or buzzing in the middle of the night are extremely high. News flash, there’s nothing important being posted at 2am in your social media feed that you would need to keep your phone on and be woken up for.
Turn off your devices early enough in the evening to skip the blue light and distractions so your mind and body can relax and sleep better.
Utilize these strategies as well as the trackers mentioned to monitor your sleep and see what it does to your health and fitness. With more sleep and better-quality sleep, you’re likely to see huge changes and improvements.
An area not many people focus on when it comes to their sleep is their stress level as well as their cortisol. When you are stressed, it raises cortisol in the body. This combination can keep you up at night if you aren’t able to manage it.
In order to manage your stress and keep your cortisol levels in check, you should consider trying deep breathing techniques, meditation, sitting in a quiet room with a book, or even working out to vent your frustrations.
If you decide to take things a step further, you can consider using something like a supplement. One such supplement that can help you reduce your cortisol levels is MPA CortiSolve. It’s as simple as one serving per day and you may notice a dramatic difference in how you feel and how you sleep. In addition to helping manage cortisol levels, CortiSolve can help increase muscle recovery, enhance muscle growth, as well as increase fat loss.
Utilize the strategies above to monitor your sleep and you’ll find drastic improvements in your health and energy levels throughout the day.