Sleep Revisited, Is Length the Most Important Factor

Sleep Revisited

You can consider this post a followup to my FIRST POST ON SLEEP, or maybe it is a tag team partner.  Either way, the more we talk about sleep the better.

First…I cannot recommend this book enough, WHY WE SLEEP by Matthew Walker.  I know, WTF…a book on sleep?  It is actually a great read and really puts the importance of sleep in perspective.  If you prefer to podcast, check out the first two sessions of Walker on Dr. Peter Attia’s podcast….or Walker on The Joe Rogan Experience (use your search in your podcast app or Google it).

Now, we keep going back to our Four Pillars that help us create a healthy life. I have always said and thought that all four pillars should be equally weighted regarding their importance but I have since changed my mind.  I truly believe that the most important thing to someone’s short-term/long-term health is the quality of their sleep.  The longest recorded fast was 388 days, so you can go a long time without food.  Most of ‘Merica doesn’t exercise or move much, with no immediate death.  Go a week without sleep….and you die.  Do just one all-nighter and tell me how you feel and how well you function!

Today I want to cover a couple things that I didn’t get too deep into on my first post (linked above).  Today we cover the length of sleep and how alcohol effects your sleep.

Length of Sleep

Approximately 99.99% of the population needs at MINIMUM 7 hours of sleep, that is a MINIMUM…the goal should be closer to 8.  Many people use less sleep (5-6 hours) as a badge of honor.  My apologies, but if this is you, you are wrong.  If you have a problem with that, then give Walker, his PHD and 30 years of sleep studies a call to debunk him.  You may be able to function a day or two on less sleep but your cognitive abilities will be severely depressed.  Do this long term and you drastically increase your chances of cancer or autoimmune disease.

The most restorative and important sleep happens towards the end of the night.  If we are shooting to get 8 hours but only get 6, many would think that 75% of that goal is good enough.  The problem with that thinking is that you are most likely missing a large chunk of that restorative sleep, putting your actual percentage of quality at 40-50%.  That’s is why the length of sleep is so important!!

I have been tracking my sleep for about five months now using a sleep ring by Oura.  There was no way I could wear a watch to bed but I really wanted solid sleep data to see how different variables affected my sleep.  That way I could share with my members to hopefully reinforce certain points.  I have a few pictures below, please take a minute to read the variables I am showing you, to help you understand what you are looking at.

APRIL SLEEP

Purple dots/line is my total nightly sleep.  I averaged 6h 52m over the month, probably not enough sleep but pretty consistent.  The reddish dots/line is my Heart Rate Variability (HRV).  If you want to understand HRV more in-depth, click HERE. Otherwise know that the LOW reddish dots are bad and the HIGH reddish dots are good.

The blue dots/line are Oura’s “Readiness” score.  This is based on all of their analytics and gives you a score on how rested your body is.  The orange dots/line is my Average Resting HR.  Through your different cycles of sleep during the night, your heart rate will move up and down, this is the average over the night.  The lower the better for Average Resting HR.

Trends

I want you to look at the top purple line and notice that my sleep stays pretty consistent.  I shoot for 7.5 hours per night but most nights I end up with around 7.  Even though my length of sleep is pretty consistent, my quality can be all over the board.  Below I have two days in April picked out that I had around 6 drinks and another day where I was fully rested.  All three days I was in bed before 9pm.  My length of sleep was good on the 7th, okay on the 29th.  The following days after drinking, I physically felt run down and cognitively out of it (big surprise, right?).  I wasn’t “hung over” in the traditional sense, but I didn’t feel like I could be mentally productive.  Both nights, both my Readiness and HRV (blue, reddish) were low which is not good, and my Average Resting HR (orange) was high which is also not good.  My normal Average Resting HR is around 58, the drinking nights it was 68.  Those two nights processing the alcohol, my heart had to pump around 4200 more times…no wonder I didn’t feel rested!!  Remember, alcohol doesn’t help you sleep, it helps you go unconscious…the same as a rear naked choke, and I don’t recommend either for a sleep aid.

I am not writing this post to be the alcohol police…it’s your life to live.  I just want you to see what alcohol actually does to the body.  I love having a cold drink after a hard day, but if you have goals, then the less alcohol the better.  Also, if you are going to have a few drinks, try to do it early afternoon so that you can get most of the alcohol out of your system by bedtime.  Work on setting a limit before you get started and understand it is ALL MENTAL!  We have trained ourselves into thinking that we need to have a drink while grilling, the football game, with dinner, after/during yard work, the kids dance recital (actually, this is okay), etc…   Mix one drink, then the next, mix a water like you would a drink.  You will find out that it is mostly mental.  Again, one are two…maybe three now and again is okay.  A six pack before bed leaves only a negative effect on the body.

Your body needs consistency with a sleep schedule, duration of sleep, nutrition, movement…and alcohol is one of those things that throws a wrench into that consistency.  Need more tips on sleeping, read my first Sleep post linked at the top of the page.  Questions on any of this, shoot me an email anytime.




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