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Zzz Is For...

Happy New Year everyone! Hope your 2022 got off to a great start. A minor technological issue occurred and a few of my blogs were not published so I apologize for not recognizing it sooner. I think the problem has now been resolved and everything is back up and running as it should. Thank you to my followers and loyal readers for understanding and waiting patiently for the next chapter in our journey to health. Here we are with the first article of the year...I'm very excited to continue exploring and sharing fitness ideas with all of you and am looking forward to where our adventures take us. Are you ready? Let's go!

lmagine you're a student sitting in your least favorite class at school or a manager leading a 0700 meeting at work. You see a nearby classmate or co-worker do it. Shortly thereafter, it hits you as well. Since they seem to be more contagious than the common cold, before long the entire room has joined in. What is this phenomena that has overcome everyone? And why does it happen? Is the teachers lecture or monthly budget meeting really that boring? Chances are they might actually be. A better explanation, though, is probably that whoever started the whole thing is just...yawn...tired. My last few blogs of 2021 were predominantly nutrition based and discussed the three major macronutrients necessary for overall well-being. If I told you there was something equally as important as diet, exercise and water for optimal health, but isn't a food or consistent workout program, what would you think? Maybe that I'm crazy...or...trying to sell something. Ok, there is a possibility I am losing my mind, but nope, not peddling anything (except a slight bit of encouragement and guidance). Whatever the case might be, there is indeed a rarely discussed topic vital to ensuring we have sufficient energy to get through our day and prevent illness. As the title suggests, this post will "cover" something all living things do. For some, like humans, it is experienced nightly, while for others it may occur seasonally. Either way, because of the number of creatures who partake in it, sleep is regarded as an essential part of life. Without it, the brain (and other organs) may not function as it (they) should potentially causing a plethora of catastrophic problems. With that being said, how much should the average person be getting and, why, then, is it that some individuals seem to need more zzz than others? These, as well as other questions, I hope to answer this week. As I have mentioned previously, there is no one solution so please understand that I will be presenting "blanket" information so the ideas listed may have to be modified to accomodate your specific needs.

You may have heard in a recent commercial (or two) large companies marketing the idea of sleep science. Adjustable beds with ten million settings for each person that make certain you wake up refreshed and rejuvenated every morning. Yes, they are trying to market their product as the one and only item that can do that, but there is indeed a science behind sleep. Hopefully with the information I am going to share, you will understand a little more about what exactly goes into getting that perfect sleep each and every night. It seems so's dark so it must be time for bed. I'll just lie down, close my eyes and drift off to la la land...right? Well... To answer the first question, most medical professionals recommend eight (8) hours of sleep per night for maximum benefits. However, it isn't uncommon to hear of people that do just fine on less than that. On the flip side, there are individuals that get significantly more than the guidelines state and still wake up feeling sleepy. So what determines who can survive on less or need more? In many cases, activity levels play a role on the quality and quantity of sleep one requires. Usually exercise creates a deeper, more restful sleep so oftentimes athletes don't get (or need) as much and perform as well as or at a higher level than another one who slumbers less. A good quality workout will fatigue not only the muscles but the brain as well allowing it to completely "shut down" and recover.

One of my first blogs talked about the best time to workout. In referencing that post, you may recall I stated that for some people an evening workout could possibly contribute to a better REM sleep than exercising at an earlier time. While this is true for a select group, know that being active at any point of the day actually aids in receiving the proper amount of sleep. It also keeps boredom out of the equation which many times is why we unintentionally fall into a slumber or take an afternoon nap. Besides exercise, there are multiple others factors that contribute to better sleep patterns. Setting a consistent bedtime also helps control how much sleep a person gets. If you know you fall into the latter category and can never get enough zzz's, going to bed at the same time every night will be advantageous in seeing that your individual sleep patterns are met. Eventually your body will know what to expect and when so you should be able to establish healthy sleep habits. Programming your body and mind so to speak, has shown to be extremely helpful for light and/or restless sleepers. Controlling the temperature at which is most comfortable for you can help regulate the amount of sleep necessary for your specific situation. If the room is too cold or excessively hot, you will be spending valuable shut eye time tossing and turning (or getting up to adjust the thermostat) which takes away the quality of sleep you desire. For those of you who, on warm nights, sleep with a fan on or window cracked open a bit, it can actually hinder sleep by altering the humidity in the room. It is best to maintain a constant temperature at night using an air conditioner or heater, additional (or fewer) blankets or whole house fan. In so doing, you will also save on energy costs.

Clothing can also play in factor in how long or well a person sleeps. Loose fitting garments are more conducive to achieving rest than tighter ones. They need to allow for movement (we all toss and turn) and be made with a breathable material. Wearing [compression] socks may not always be a good idea unless a doctor prescribes them as they can restrict blood flow to the feet potentially resulting in circulatory issues such as leg cramps or restless leg syndrome.

Mattress and pillow selection are also critical in the quality and quantity of sleep an individual achieves. A perfect example of this is the childhood story about the three bears. Finding one that is not rock hard or water bed squishy can be difficult, but is crucial in creating ideal sleep habits. Choosing ones that provide correct postural alignment are best for ensuring a comfortable night's sleep. Waking up stiff is never fun and indicates that one or both are not a good fit. In picking out a mattress and pillow, don't be afraid to lay on them for a few minutes. This is plenty of time to receive either a warning or all systems go signal. Lastly, like with exercise, proper hydration is pivotal for sleep. Going to bed thirsty will almost guarantee the necessity to get up during the night to wet your whistle. On the contrary, however, hitting the hay after drinking a gallon of water will most assuredly make for at least one bathroom visit when you should be getting treasured shut eye. Finding an optimal balance takes some practice, so be patient as you experiment with different schedules and time frames.

So you see, as simple as sleep sounds, there is more to it than meets the eye. With the information presented above, hopefully the science surrounding its importance has been "uncovered" and the A to Zzz made clear. Hope you all will continue to follow my page through 2022. Feel free to leave comments or feedback or offer suggestions of topics you'd like to see discussed. Join me in two weeks when we accomplish a major "feat."

Quote of the week: "I'm so good at sleeping I can do it with my eyes closed."

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