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Sleep is arguably one of the most amazing things in the world, provided you can get enough of it of course. In today’s non-stop society of high stress from both life and environmental factors, sleep is constantly being put on he backburner, left neglected despite its extreme importance. The two biggest issues that tend to arise when looking into peoples sleeping patterns is that sleep is either being consciously disregarded in order to make way for other life tasks; or it is being disrupted, meaning you just can’t get to or stay asleep for an extended time in order to receive that high quality, deep sleep we require. While both cases of sleep deprivation are an issue, this article will focus more so on the inability to get to sleep or get into that deep we so badly need, as this issue is much harder to solve and get to the bottom of.
Sleep is so often overlooked even though it is arguably the most important factor when it comes to functioning both mentally and physically. Lacking it can lead to burn out and have you feeling run down, and often, when left unaddressed causing serious cases of fatigue. Rest and recovery, this is where all the magic really happens in our bodies, regeneration and repair occur on both a cellular and hormonal level during sleep, allowing our body to hit reset, rejuvenate and prepare for the next day. This process is what allows us to function at our best, both in life and in training. Under recovery is potentially the most common thing stopping us from making gains in the gym, getting that promotion at work or being able to spend quality time that you can embrace and enjoy with family and friends.
So why can’t we sleep, why are we always so tired? This is more often than not related to a hormonal imbalance in our body that has occurred from under recovery. Muscle soreness, inflammation, immune dysfunction, digestive issues and nervous system fatigue are all signs that your body has hit a point to which it can no longer keep up. The main hormone attributed with an inability to sleep or contrastingly, being in a constant state of tiredness, is cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland in our body.
Cortisol is our body’s stress hormone; responsible for ensuring we can prepare for and survive a stress should it occur. It’s the hormone that spikes up in the morning to wake us up and give us energy for the day, which then dips into a low trough at night to ensure we can enter a deep sleep. The biggest issue we face in today’s world is that everything we do, from our work to our environment, to the food we eat, our body is constantly fighting potential stressors, forcing the adrenal gland to work in overtime. This leads to one of two situations; either the body struggles to make enough cortisol leading to an annoying steady trickle at night that keeps you from a deep sleep. Or you have pushed your body to a point of adrenal fatigue in which your adrenal gland cannot produce enough cortisol, leaving you with low levels all day and all night, all you want to do is sleep.
As I’m sure you can understand, neither of these situations are good places to find yourself in. Both will be detrimental to your performance and function inside and outside of the gym. So how do we manage it? Well cortisol is a tricky one to manage, especially with today’s fast-passed, stress inducing environment, however, there are some little tricks you can use to aid with improving your sleep and achieving a balanced hormonal state in your body.
Fixing these issues isn’t an overnight thing, but implementing these small life changes can help speed up the recovery process and aid you in finally receiving that good night sleep you have been craving and deserve! The biggest recommendation is to prioritise your sleep, do everything you can to set aside the required time and try your best not to let sleep fall down that list of priorities – it should always be up the top. Good quality sleep is so important, and it is the one time our bodies can regenerate, recover, grow and improve, so emphasise its importance and ensure you get the amount of deep sleep you require to function optimally. You’ll notice the difference!
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