Home Posts tagged "Sleep"

CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast – March 2024 Q&A: Sleep Tracking, Work Capacity, and Tendinopathy Wordplay

It's time for another listener Q&A, so I cover three questions from our audience in this week's podcast:

  1. I saw your recent Instagram post about how you’re using an Oura ring and noticed what it turned up when you were sick. What are your thoughts? I’ve noticed that my sleep tracking can sometimes dome me up because it doesn’t always align with how I feel.
  2. What’s something you see as heavily overlooked in training teenage athletes?
  3. I’ve recall you writing somewhere that you felt the “tendinitis” diagnosis was overused. Can you please elaborate more?

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Marc Pro. Head to www.MarcPro.com and enter the coupon code CRESSEY at checkout to receive an exclusive discount on your order.

 

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This episode is brought to you by Marc Pro, a cutting-edge EMS device that uses patented technology to create non-fatiguing muscle activation. Muscle activation with Marc Pro facilitates each stage of the body’s natural recovery process- similar to active recovery, but without the extra effort and muscle fatigue. Athletes can use it for as long as they need to ensure a more full and quick recovery in between training or games. With its portability and ease of use, players can use Marc Pro while traveling between games or while relaxing at home. Players and trainers from every MLB team - including over 200 pro pitchers - use Marc Pro. Put Marc Pro to the test for yourself and use promo code CRESSEY at checkout at www.MarcPro.com for an exclusive discount on your order.

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And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/3/19

I hope you're having a great holiday week. I'm long overdue with a list of recommended reading, so I've luckily got some good stuff stockpiled.

Keeping the Fun in Children's Sports - This was a great piece in the New York Times that summarizes some new findings from an American Academy of Pediatrics report on organized sports.

Why We Sleep - Brandon Marcello recommended this book when he came on the podcast (listen to his interview here), and it hasn't disappointed. I'd highly recommend it.

The Language of Coaching - Nick Winkelman put up his slides from this year's Perform Better presentations, and he's got some great information on optimizing coaching cues.

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*Exhale fully to get more out of your anti-extension core exercises and shoulder flexion mobility drills.* 👇 One of the central points of the @posturalrestoration philosophy is that folks who live in a gross extension pattern (forward head posture, excessive lordosis, anterior pelvic tilt, plantarflexed ankles, etc.) live in a constant state of inhalation. In other words, they have absolutely no idea how to get air out. When you exhale, your ribs should come down, so the best time to challenge this function is when the arms are flexed overhead, as folks with an anterior-weight-bearing tendency often "flare" the ribs up during this overhead reach. It's challenging enough for folks with these heavily ingrained habits to get their arms overhead in a neutral spine position, but ask them to exhale in this position and you'll make folks feel inadequate really fast. Here's a good progression you can use, from mobility drills to stability ones. Exhale fully at the position in each drill when the arms are overhead (lats are on the biggest stretch): Bench T-Spine Mobs -> Dead Bugs -> Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion -> Tall Kneeling TRX Fallouts . . . #cspfamily #mobility

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Elite Baseball Development Podcast with Brandon Marcello

We're excited to welcome sports scientist Dr. Brandon Marcello to the podcast for Episode #14 for an in-depth discussion on sleep. A special thanks goes out to this show's sponsor, VersaPulley. It's an awesome option for challenging deceleration in multiple planes of motion, and has been an excellent addition to our training at Cressey Sports Performance. They've got a great 10% off offer going for our podcast listeners at http://www.VersaPulley.com/Cressey10.

Show Outline

  • What the four major components of recovery are, and how sleep influences these domains
  • Why sleep is vital for human performance and what the negative implications are for ignoring its importance
  • How individuals are actually born as early birds or night owls, and what strategies people should utilize to maximize their sleep regardless of their tendencies
  • Why routine is king when establishing quality sleep habits
  • What is sleep debt and why it is significant for people to avoid the accumulation of sleep debt over time
  • How impactful are naps for overcoming the accumulation of sleep debt, and how to best incorporate them
  • Why not all sleep supplements are everything they claim to be
  • What easy adjustments athletes can implement to improve their sleep beyond the well-known strategies already commonly practiced
  • How athletes can combat the negative implications of their current sleep situation
  • Why coaches should encourage their athletes to value their sleep, and what strategies they can use to aid in their players accumulation of quality sleep

You can follow Brandon on Instagram at @bmarcello13 and Twitter at @bmarcello13.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by VersaPulley. The VersaPulley offers flywheel training and one benefit of training with a flywheel is inertia. The faster the flywheel is moving, the more the user must decelerate the inertia that is created - and we know training deceleration is a huge piece of preventing athletic injuries and enhancing performance. While there are a few flywheel training options on the market, the VersaPulley is the only one that that allows you to train at any point along the force/velocity curve, and in multiple planes of movement. If you want to train at any speed, any load, and any direction, the VersaPulley has got you covered. They've set up a great discount of 10% for our listeners; you can learn more at http://www.VersaPulley.com/Cressey10.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/28/17

This week's recommended reading/listening has a bit more of a lifestyle/chronic disease theme to it, but I'm sure you'll still find these resources very useful.

Physical Preparation Podcast with Nick Littlehales - This podcast might have been the best one I've listened to ion 2017. This is an outstanding discussion on sleep strategies from one of the best in the world on the topic.

Can Supplemental Vitamin D Improve Sleep? - This was an insightful post from the Examine.com crew in light of some research that was recently published.

25 Nutrition and Lifestyle Strategies to Lower Your Risk of Alzheimer's Disease - I read this article from Precision Nutrition with great interest, as there is some family history for me in this realm. This is an excellent review of the research we have at our fingertips.

August 25 Facebook Live - I did this Q&A on Wednesday afternoon; you can watch the recording of it here:

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/27/17

It's been a rainy few days in Massachusetts, but that won't put a damper on a productive week. I've been staying plenty busy with this week's $30 off sale on The High Performance Handbook.

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Here are a few good reads/listens for the week:

The Power of Sleep (Infographic) - Brian St. Pierre (author of The High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide) created this quick and easy-to-understand reference for Precision Nutrition. It's a great one to share with clients.  

The Truth About Your Future - This book was written by a financial advisor and can seem "pitchy" at times, but it did include a lot of fascinating research on technological advancements and how they'll impact everything from life expectancy, to college planning, to occupational outlook.

EC on Raful Matuszewski's Podcast - I was a guest on Rafal's show a few weeks ago, and we talked about everything from parenting to athlete motivation.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/13/15

It's Monday - and that means it's time for some recommended strength and conditioning reading to kick off the week.

Cressey Sports Performance Roundtable: Carving Your Path as a Strength Coach - After a question was emailed in to our facility's general inquiry email address, our staff chimed in with their recommendations for an up-and-coming strength and conditioning coach.

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How Sleep Can Make You Fat - Adam Bornstein discusses the many impacts sleep quality and quantity has on overall health. Suffice it to say that it's very important!

Blake Treinen's Path to the Nationals Involved 3 Colleges, 2 Drafts, and a Trade - CSP athlete Blake Treinen made the opening day roster for the Washington Nationals, but that's far from the entire story. If you work with young athletes and are looking for a story of perseverance to share with them, look no further.

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A Glimpse Inside The High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide – Part 1

I've received some questions about what one can expect from Nutrition Guide that accompanies The High Performance Handbook Gold Package, so I thought I'd use today's post to highlight a few "Ah-Ha" moments from Brian St. Pierre's awesome contribution.  For those who aren't familiar with "BSP," he's one of Dr. John Berardi's right-hand-men at Precision Nutrition.  Check out these thought provoking ideas directly from the text:

Point #1: The Dairy and Diabetes Risk Relationship

With little fanfare, a study recently came out by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and colleagues. Why so little fanfare, you ask?  It’s because the study suggests that dairy fat may actually protect against diabetes, and that goes against conventional wisdom and government recommendations.

Dr. Mozaffarian and company collected two measures of dairy fat intake in 3,736 Americans. They took six 24-hour dietary recall questionnaires, as well as assessing blood levels of trans-palmitoleate.  Trans-palmitoleate comes almost exclusively from dairy fat and red meat fat, and therefore it reflects the intakes of these foods.  Dairy provided most of the trans-palmitoleate fatty acid in this study.

Adjustments were made for confounding factors, and trans-palmitoleate levels were associated with a smaller waist circumference, higher HDL cholesterol, lower serum triglycerides, lower C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), lower fasting insulin and lower calculated insulin resistance.  In addition, people who had the highest levels of trans-palmitoleate had 1/3 the risk of developing diabetes over the 3-year study period.

Again, it is important to note that trans-palmitoleate is a fatty acid, and so is only provided in significant amounts by whole fat dairy, not from low-fat or fat-free versions. The investigators also noted that “greater whole-fat dairy consumption was associated with lower risk for diabetes.”  This is an important distinction, as it wasn’t just trans-palmitoleate levels that were associated with the decreased risk, but the actual consumption of whole-fat dairy itself that seemingly provides the benefit.

Here’s another nice quote from the authors: “Our findings support potential metabolic benefits of dairy consumption and suggest that trans-palmitoleate may mediate these effects.  They also suggest that efforts to promote exclusive consumption of low-fat and non-fat dairy products, which would lower population exposure to trans-palmitoleate, may be premature until the mediators of the health effects of dairy consumption are better established.”

While it is certainly possible that trans-palmitoleate is mediating a lot of these positive health outcomes that were associated with it, in all reality, it only makes up a tiny fraction of the fat content of milk.  I tend to believe that instead, it is more of a marker of dairy fat intake, with the benefits more likely coming from the other elements contained in dairy fat – CLA, vitamin K2, butyric acid, vitamin D – in addition to the trans-palmitoleate.

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Point #2: Sleep: Why We Need It, and How To Get It

We all know that sleep is important for our health.  However, many of us (if not most of us) tend to act as if that just doesn’t hold true for ourselves.  We seem to believe that we can get away with it.  While you may blame “work” or simply being “busy,” research clearly and consistently shows that people miss out on sleep due to something called “voluntary bedtime delay.”  Basically, we stay up late because we want to, often watching “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” re-runs, or mindlessly reading useless info on Facebook.  No matter the reason, it is unlikely to actually be more important than logging sufficient and quality shut-eye.

In the big picture, sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to improving your health, performance, and body composition. 

The average adult gets about 6 hours and 40 minutes of sleep per night. In fact, about 30% of the population gets fewer than six hours per night. Women tend to sleep a bit more than men, and people who carry high amounts of body fat tend to sleep less than those with a normal body fat level.  Studies suggest that people who sleep fewer than six hours per night gain almost twice as much weight over a 6-year period as people who sleep 7-8 hours per night. 

Excessive sleep isn’t necessarily better, either; those who sleep more than nine hours per night have similar body composition outcomes as those who sleep less than six hours.

There is a fairly strong body of research showing that lack of sleep increases risk of many conditions, including:

  • altered food intake
    • decrease in satiety hormones, increase in hunger hormones
    • increase in pleasure response to food, causing increased food intake
  • altered glucose tolerance, insulin resistance & diabetes
  • inflammation
  • obesity
  • disruption of cortisol levels and rhythm
  • decrease in testosterone and increase in estrogen
  • loss of lean mass, including muscle, bone and organs (such as your brain)
  • decrease in thyroid stimulating hormone
  • heart attack
  • stroke

It is important to note that sleep debt is cumulative, meaning that the more nights with less sleep, the greater likelihood of negative effects taking place.  The good news is that you can catch up with just a few consecutive nights of adequate sleep.  Experts hypothesize that each hour of sleep debt needs to be repaid eventually, so don’t let it add up.

Okay, so we know lack of sleep is a problem.  As researchers have noted regarding sleep debt: "these alterations are similar to those observed during aging and sometimes during depression." Awesome. 

Fortunately, research also shows that simply getting adequate sleep can quickly right the ship on these issues.  [Note from EC: Brian goes into great detail on strategies to improve sleep quality and duration in his guide].

I'll be back later today with a few more key points from BSP's manual, but in the meantime, you can check out The High Performance Handbook here. Don't forget: the $30 off discount is only around for this week!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/26/13

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Hacking Sleep: Engineering a High Quality, Restful Night - Brian St. Pierre goes into great detail on how to improve sleep quality in order to optimize recovery and fitness progress.

What You Need to Know About GIRD - Mike Reinold put together a great review of the literature and outlined the common mistakes he sees with respect to glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD).  This is stuff that Mike and I discuss literally every week, so I'm glad he's finally put it into a comprehensive article.  If you're a coach who is universally prescribing sleeper stretch to all your players, this is must-read material; you'll reconsider it after you're done.

Injuries are an Opportunity - Andrew Ferreira is a CP pro guy in the Twins system, and he offered this great insight on how you can't just have a pity party when you get hurt; you have to use it as an avenue through which you can get better.

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Sleep: What the Research Actually Says

As a complete workaholic, I have a tremendous interest in the acute and chronic effects of sleep deprivation on both performance and health.  And, as a performance coach to many athletes who generally go to "work" from 1pm-1am each afternoon/evening and often consume far too much caffeine, I'm always looking for good material to pass along their way in hopes of helping them to realize how important sleep really is.  In this great guest post, Sol Orwell and Kurtis Frank provide just that.  It's a long read, but 100% worth it.  Enjoy! - EC
 

Sleep is a fun topic. Every few months or so, someone will put up a post talking about how important sleep is, how you need it, how if you don’t get enough of it you will get fat and disgusting and huge, yadda yadda yadda.

We’re not here to dispute that. What we are here to do is take an investigative look; sleep is entering the realm of “say something enough times, and it has to be true.” You’ll be hard-pressed to find any recent articles that have actually looked at the evidence surrounding sleep quality and quantity and how they affect your body. Mostly, the evidence we have is purposely restricting sleep in people and seeing what happens.

Prepare for some truthiness (we’ve also inserted some blockquotes to help guide you through).

Sleep Deprivation and its Effects on Hormones

The hormones that are most frequently stated to be affected by sleep are:

  • Insulin - one of the most misunderstood hormone there is (see James Krieger’s fantastic analysis on insulin)
  • Androgens - the muscle-building hormones
  • Growth Hormone
  • Cortisol, the “stress” hormone

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Insulin

Sleep deprivation doesn’t seem to affect insulin levels much, but there is definitely a decrease in insulin sensitivity in the fat cells and liver1,2. This decrease in sensitivity can happen as easily as getting half your normal amount of sleep for less than a week3,4 or even losing 90 minutes over a few weeks5. This lack of sleep, coupled with decreased sensitivity, is a risk factor for the development of type II diabetes.

Thankfully, these effects are quickly normalized upon recompensatory sleep.

The implications of reduced insulin sensitivity, beyond an increase in diabetes risk, are not too clear for an otherwise healthy person, as the decrease in insulin sensitivity affects all measured tissue (adipose, muscle, and liver) and is just due to impaired signalling through the insulin receptor.

Sleep deprivation reduces insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. This happens even after mild deprivation, but normalizes quickly once you’ve had enough rest.

Androgens and Testosterone

Testosterone is known for being affected by poor sleep (on a related note, you tend to sleep worse as you age, and this exacerbates sleep deprivation problems)6,7. Studies have shown that getting three fewer hours of sleep for five days reduced testosterone by over 10%8, whereas another study showed a 30.4%9 decrease! These reductions all happened within 24 hours of sleep deprivation10,11. Similar to insulin, getting enough rest quickly reverses this decline.

Sleep deprivation is associated with reduced testosterone. Akin to insulin, it normalizes once you get enough rest.

Growth Hormone

Growth hormone is actually a surprise in regards to sleep deprivation. For starters, we know that a large pulse of growth hormone occurs shortly after sleep begins, and in otherwise healthy young men, this accounts for roughly 50% of daily secretion. So would missing out on sleep impair growth hormone?

It depends on the duration of sleep.

Absolute deprivation of sleep for multiple nights can effectively suppress growth hormone. But neither an irregular sleep cycle (like a shift worker’s)12 nor only sleeping for four hours a night13 will adversely affect whole-day exposure to GH. It seems that the body compensates during daylight hours, and what is missed out on at night is adequately replaced during waking hours in those that are sleep-deprived.

Now, it is possible that the altered secretion patterns of GH can come with changes in its effects. However, the overall pattern is still pulsatile in nature (just biphasic rather than monophasic) and unlikely to be a huge issue.

Getting less sleep or having perturbed sleep changes the GH cycle, but does not reduce overall exposure to GH, as the body seems to compensate during waking hours.

Cortisol

Cortisol is the hormone that mediates the process of waking up, and under normal rested conditions, it’s elevated in the morning (to wake you) and suppressed in the evening (so you can fall asleep). It isn’t necessarily a bad hormone (the anti-inflammatory and fat-burning properties sound nice), but elevated cortisol also tends to be somewhat catabolic to muscle tissue, as well as being an indicator of other stress-related issues.

Sleep deprivation both dysregulates and increases whole-day exposure to cortisol. Imagine a graph where a line goes from high on the left to low on the right, and label it “what cortisol should do over time.” Sleep deprivation turns that line into a straight horizontal line, and then raises it up a tad on the Y-axis.

Interestingly, past studies were misguided a bit since they were only measuring morning cortisol concentrations and they kept on noting a decrease! Most recent studies that measured 24-hour exposure noted an increase – some as high as 50% – following four hours of deprivation each night for a week in otherwise healthy men.

Cortisol normally is high in the morning and low in the evening, but sleep deprivation normalizes this difference (lowering morning levels, increasing evening levels) and increases overall exposure to cortisol over a full day.

Sleep Deprivation and Physical Activity

Sleep deprivation has been noted to impair sprint performance and cardiovascular endurance14,15. There is conflicting evidence here: tests on cycle ergometers did not note much of an effect16,17, and the one study to assess weightlifting performance also failed to find any adverse effect18.

Despite these mixed reports on sleep deprivation, acute sports performance is enhanced by caffeine and/or creatine supplementation during a state of acute sleep deprivation. The latter only seems to apply to things that require a high degree of coordination and mental processing19.

It’s important to note that these studies had participants just skip sleep for one night. Real-world application is more chronic; you tend to lose a few hours every night, and it adds up. The impracticality of these studies makes it very hard to make solid conclusions.

(Note from EC: anecdotally, I could always “get away with” one night of sleep deprivation and then still demonstrate “normal” strength the next day. If I missed out on sleep two nights in a row, though, my in-the-gym performance went down the tubes after the second night)

Missing sleep for one night may or may not have adverse effects on performance, as the literature seems pretty split. There is a lack of research on realistic situations for chronic sleep deprivation.

Sleep Deprivation and Body Composition

Food Intake and Hunger

One of the more talked about effects of sleep deprivation as it pertains to body composition is that it somehow makes you eat a ton more food and then you get fat.

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The general idea (based on rat studies) is that sleep deprivation eventually (after five days or so) leads to increased food intake, but oddly this is not met with an increase in body weight; absolute sleep deprivation paradoxically causes fat loss and mild sleep deprivation just prevents weight gain.20 The increase in food intake is probably because of an exaggerated response to orexin, a wakefulness-promoting hormone that positively modulates hunger. Orexin increases as one is awake longer, causing more food intake as a side effect.21 Orexin also positively mediates energy expenditure, but it is not known if we can credit this for the observed weight-maintenance effects.

More practically speaking, studies in humans have noted an increased food intake of roughly 20-25% following a few hours of sleep deprivation for four days22,23. This is likely due to the brain’s response to food intake being enhanced, thus making food more hyperpalatable24,25.

It is unclear how sleep deprivation affects weights in humans. There is a very well-established correlation in society between obesity and sleep disturbances, but the studies currently conducted in people on weight loss programs with sleep deprivation control for food intake.

Sleep deprivation appears to increase food intake, likely due to the increased “pleasure response” to food. Paradoxically, this increased food intake might not be linked to more weight gain (rat studies confirm, human studies are somewhat unclear).

Metabolic Rate

It’s harder to make sense of the effects of sleep deprivation on metabolic rate. One study found that getting three fewer hours of sleep per day for two weeks resulted in a 7.6% reduction in metabolic rate26, whereas other studies showed no decrease22,27. To make it even more confusing, one study (on adolescent boys) found that less sleep resulted in more calories burned28; the participants burned more (being awake longer) and consumed less (decreased appetite).

In rats, chronic sleep deprivation is also known to greatly increase both food intake and the metabolic rate, resulting in weight loss (albeit a ton of other side effects such as lethargy, impaired cognition, and an aged visual appearance probably make sleep deprivation a bad diet strategy).29

So ultimately, it doesn’t appear that there is much evidence that poor sleep reduces the metabolic rate. More likely, being “tired” from lack of sleep tends to result in less physical activity30 and a possible increase of food intake could shift the balance of “calories in versus out” towards a surplus.

Nutrient Partitioning

There is one other interesting study that controlled for food intake and noted no differences in weight loss between groups (sleep deprived people and control both subject to intentional weight loss programs). This same study showed more lean mass lost and less fat mass lost in the sleep-deprived relative to control31.

Overall, it does not appear that a reduction in sleep directly suppresses the metabolic rate, but it may do so indirectly via reduced physical activity. Regardless of the metabolic rate, sleep deprivation during periods of fat loss may result in more lean mass lost and less fat mass lost than if one were fully rested.

Enhancing Sleep Quality

It seems that getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is quite important for those concerned with athletics and/or body composition. It would be a tad abrupt to just leave off on the importance of sleep without saying how to improve sleep, so the following are some tips that can be used to enhance sleep quality.

Timing Food Intake

Food intake can be quite effective in influencing the circadian rhythm: One way to avoid jet lag involves having a high-protein breakfast intermittently for three days (separated by low-calorie “fasting” days) at your destination’s time; the final meal is breakfast eaten after having arrived. This high-protein meal at your destination’s breakfast time should be able to reset your circadian rhythm. This is known as the Argonne Diet, and although it lacks scientific evidence to support it, the anecdotes are promising.

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It appears to play on the interactions between dietary protein and orexin, a wakefulness-promoting hormone highly involved in the circadian rhythm.31

Conversely, dietary carbohydrates may be able to promote relaxation (somewhat indirectly) secondary to an increase in serotonin synthesis, which then converts to melatonin. Since the conversion requires darkness to occur, this might mean a small serving of carbohydrate prior to sleep can promote restful sleep while focusing dietary protein earlier in the day might also work to regulate the sleep cycle.

Light Exposure or Deprivation

Both light exposure (blue/green or white lights; fluorescent or sunlight) and dark exposure (either absolute darkness, or an attenuation of white light into pink/red dim lights) can aid in sleep-cycle regulation. Both dark and light exposure have been investigated for restoring altered circadian rhythms seen with jet lag.32,33

The perception of light via the retina actively suppresses the conversion of serotonin into melatonin, and appears to have other neurological effects that promote wakefulness (in the morning) or otherwise impair sleep. Reddish lights appear to be less detrimental to sleep quality, and it is sometimes recommended to dim lights or switch to red lights in the evening to facilitate sleep quality.

For those of you at the computer frequently, this can be demonstrated with the downloadable software known as f.lux, which fades your computer screen to pink and reduces the brightness without affecting readability at a preset time every day.

Regulating your light exposure in the morning and evening may facilitate a more normal circadian rhythm and sleep quality. If light cannot be avoided outright, a transition from white light to red light at night may be helpful.

Supplementation

Supplementation to target sleep quality tends to stem from melatonin, which is a highly reliable and effective anti-insomniac agent that can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. It is unlikely to do anything if you do not have problems falling asleep, but otherwise is a quite important and cheap supplement. The above light- and meal-manipulation strategies tend to work via melatonin manipulation anyways, and supplementation is an easy way to circumvent it.

Beyond melatonin, other possible options include generally relaxing compounds (lavender and l-theanine) or other endogenous agents that seem to regulate sleep (oleamide being the latest up-and-comer supplement). Lavender is actually an interesting option since it appears to be somewhat effective as aromatherapy as a “relaxing” scent, and aromatherapy may be the only way to continuously administer a supplement throughout sleep (via putting a few drops of lavender oil on a nearby object and continuing to breathe while you sleep).

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It should also be noted that restricting stimulants or anti-sleep agents (caffeine and modafinil mostly) should be advised if sleep quality is desired. Even if caffeine fails to neurally stimulate you anymore due to tolerance, it can still screw with sleep quality.

What You Should Have Learned

That was a lot of information and studies to throw at you all at once. We’ve summed up all the relevant points:

  • Reduced sleep for a prolonged period of time can decrease insulin sensitivity (and thus is a risk factor for diabetes); this is normalized when proper rest is attained.
  • Similar to the issue of insulin sensitivity, testosterone and other anabolic hormones are acutely suppressed with sleep deprivation and normalized shortly after proper rest is attained.
  • There is actually mixed evidence as to whether missing a night of sleep impairs workout performance. It would be safe to say that it does not help, and could potentially hinder.
  • Sleep deprivation is not adverse to weight loss per se, but it can cause you to overeat or move less.
  • Regardless of weight loss, limited evidence suggests an adverse effect on where the weight is lost (more lean mass lost, less fat lost).
  • Shifting the majority of your protein towards the morning, and perhaps having a small carbohydrate-containing meal at night, should theoretically aid in maintaining a proper circadian rhythm.
  • Manipulating light exposure for brighter white/blue/green lights in the morning and dimmer red/pink lights (or just darkness) at night definitely does aid in maintaining a proper sleep cycle.
  • If needed, melatonin can be used to help with sleep latency (time required to fall asleep) and abstaining from stimulants or introducing relaxing molecules (lavender and theanine) may aid in sleep quality.

About the Authors

Sol Orwell and Kurtis Frank co-founded Examine.com in early 2011. They’ve been collating scientific research on supplements and nutrition since then, and are working on a beginner’s guide to supplements.

Note: the references for this article are posted as the first comment below.

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5 Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 1

My "random thoughts" pieces are some of my favorite writings that I've ever published, and today seemed like a good day to throw out some quick and easy ideas on how you can feel better, move better, lose fat, gain muscle, get strong, and - if you're super-motivated - take over the world.  Here goes... 1. Get a good training partner. There are random dudes you meet at the gym who provide a mediocre lift-off on the bench press here and there, and then there are dedicated training partners.  There is a big difference.  A good training partner will tell you to get your act together and train hard when you're slacking off, or even hold you back when your body is banged up, but you're stupidly trying to push through it.  It's guaranteed accountability, motivation, expertise, safety, competition, and all-around awesomeness.  To be honest, I often wonder if most people get the best results working with a trainer/strength coach for these factors more than the actual expertise the fitness professional provides!

2. Make your bedroom a cave. One of the best investments my wife and I made when we bought our new house were reinforced window shades for our bedroom so that very little light could get through when they were down.  They make a dramatic difference in terms of how dark you can make your room at night (especially if you have street lights near your residence) and were 100% worth the extra cost, as compared to regular shades. Even if you don't want to spend the extra few bucks on souped-up shades, though, you can still get some of the benefits of "cave sleeping" by blocking out light from cell phones, alarm clocks, and - if you're a frat boy - bright green neon signs of your favorite beer in your dorm room.  Also, do your best to shut the TV and computer off at least thirty minutes before you hit the sack as well, as it'll give your brain time to wind down and transition to some deep, restful sleep. 3. Take Athletic Greens. I've always been a non-responder to supplements.  As an example, I never gained an ounce when I started taking creatine in 2001, and never noticed a huge difference in sleep quality when I started taking ZMA. Still, I pretty much trust in research and go with these supplements, plus mainstays like fish oil and Vitamin D and assume that they're doing their job.  It's interesting how some of the most essential supplements we take are the ones where we might notice the most subtle difference, isn't it? Anyway, in 2011, I added Athletic Greens to this mix.  I look at it as whole food based "nutritional insurance" use it in place of my multivitamin.  I think it's solid not only as a greens supplement (which, incidentally, doesn't taste like dog crap), but also because it directly improves gut health to improve absorption of micronutrients.  With loads of superfoods, herbal extracts, trace elements, antioxidants, and pre- and probiotics, I could tell that it would be something that would decrease inflammation and improve immunity (something I've viewed as increasingly important with each passing year as life has gotten more stressful with the growth of Cressey Performance).

Interestingly, one of our long-time athletes who is now playing baseball at a highly ranked D1 university, started taking Athletic Greens after we chatted about it this summer, and he sent me this note: Hey Eric, thanks for the recommendation on Athletic Greens. I love the product! I have not gotten sick once since I started taking it 4 months ago, and my body feels better than ever. This is the first semester I haven't gotten sick. Hope all is well!  I guess I'm not the only one who likes it!  Check it out for yourself here. As an aside, they do a pretty cool combination where you can get greens, fish oil, and vitamin D all at once at a great price, and the fish oil is excellent quality. We have several athletes who get everything in this one place for convenience. 4. Go split-stance. Last week, in my popular post, Are Pull-ups THAT Essential?, I included the following video of forearm wall slides at 135 degrees, a great drill we like to use to train upward rotation, as the arms are directly in the line of pull in the lower traps.  With this exercise, we always cue folks "glutes tight, core braced" so that they don't just substitute lumbar extension in place of the scapulae moving into retraction/depression on the rib cage.

Unfortunately, these cues don't work for everyone - particularly those who are super lordotic (huge arch in their lower back).  A great "substitute cue" for these folks is to simply go into a split stance, putting one foot out in front of the other (even if it's just slightly).  As you have probably observed in performing single-leg exercises like lunges and split-squats, it is much harder to substitute lumbar extension for hip extension than it is with bilateral exercises like squats and deadlifts.  Fortunately, the same is true of substituting lumbar extension for scapular movement on the rib cage.  So, if you're struggling with the exercise above, simply move one foot out in front of the other and you should be golden.

5. Get some assessments done. Imagine you were about to embark on a cross country trip with a great vacation in mind in, say, San Diego.  However, I didn't tell you where you were starting the journey.  While you might get to where you want to be (or at least close to it), it'd make the trip a lot more difficult. You'd probably blow a bunch of money on gas, sleep in some nasty motels in the middle of nowhere, pick up an awkward hitchhiked who smells like cabbage, and maybe even spend a night in a Tijuana jail along the way.  Not exactly optimal planning. A strength and conditioning program isn't much different than this cross-country trip.  If you don't know how your body works - both internally and externally - you need to learn before you subject it to serious stress.  Get some bloodwork done to see if you have any deficiencies (e.g., Vitamin D, iron, essential fatty acids) that could interfere with your energy levels, ability to recover, or endocrine response to exercise.  Likewise, consult someone who understands movement to determine whether you have faulty movement patterns that could predispose you to injury.  I think this is one reason why Assess and Correct has been our most popular product ever; it gives folks some guidance on where to start and where to go.  Otherwise, the strength and conditioning program in front of you is really just a roadmap, and you don't know where the starting point is.

These are just a few quick thoughts that came to mind today, but I'll surely have many more in the follow-ups to this first installment.  Feel free to post some of your own ideas in the comments section below, too! Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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