By: Tommy Showerman
Recovery: Sleep And Headspace
All of us have had a sleepless night and a night where we have slept like a baby. Our well-being, state of mind and physical appearance after each of these nights are remarkably different. The Mayo Clinic suggests adults get seven to nine hours of sleep a night with children under 14 attaining nine or more hours. Are you meeting the standards?
- The Restorative Theory, as implied, states sleep is necessary to rejuvenate what is broken down while conscious and moving about. Supportive data from Harvard Medical shows muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone are all most active while sleeping. The restoration also takes place in the brain during sleep. Throughout the day, neurons fire in the brain, leaving behind traces of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Sleep allows our body to clear out these accumulated chemicals in preparation for the next day. One animal study showed the vitality of sleep through complete sleep deprivation; within a couple of weeks all animals died due to a loss of immune function!
- The Brain Plasticity Theory proposes that sleep is the time when our brain organizes, structures, and files memories from the day. This would explain why growing and school-aged children physiologically need so much more sleep than adults. It would also explain how when we are sleep deprived we are more forgetful and disorganized. Not only are we dependent upon sleep, but, specifically, we need REM sleep, also known as deep sleep, to process and catalog our memories. Sleep is cyclical throughout the night, meaning we fluctuate between periods of light sleep and deep sleep. Throughout the night, the periods of light sleep become briefer and the periods of deep sleep occur more often and for longer periods of time. This is why the difference between five and seven hours of sleep is so great! During the
five hours, you may have gone through only three cycles, but with only two additional hours you may double that to six!
- Headspace is a term to explain the little breaks and pauses we need throughout the day in order to combat overwhelmed feelings, anxious thoughts, and stressful behaviors. These headspace moments could be a 20-minute nap, a short walk, a meditation session, or any other activity allowing you to reset your mind and clear your head momentarily of pressing issues. If you fail to include headspace moments throughout your day, you inevitably slowly become overwhelmed. We are not made to be constantly bombarded with worries. Eventually, we will all break down.
Without question, nutrition is one of the most convoluted, misguided, and financially motivated fields in the health world. The nutrition industry is a multi-billion dollar industry aimed at confusing us, the consumers. Why? Because it makes big companies tons of money! Some examples: Eggs used to be horrible; now they are a superfood. Trans fats were designed to save; they indeed kill. Carbs and fats are horrible for us, but yet we need them to survive? Keto diet is in, and carbs are out. So what is the truth?
Eat mostly fruits and vegetables. Prioritize healthy fats. Mandate 100 percent whole grains. Eat a variety of proteins including plant-based proteins, fish, and poultry while limiting red meats. Match your intake to activity level. Drink water. Experiment, cook and develop your relationship with food in a healthy way or it will kill you.
Sounds a little harsh, but the time to sugarcoat nutrition, so to speak, is over. The diet industry and poor nutrition has killed enough people in the United States, including my family members and yours. Fortunately, you may also be saved through proper nutrition.
This nutrition theory comes from a combination of three diets that have consistently been used to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases: the Mediterranean Diet; DASH Diet (Dietary Approach to Stopping Hypertension); and a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet. Leaving the specific to our Registered Dietitians, below are examples of why these eating lifestyles are so great:
- Increased Fiber Intake: Fiber is responsible for both soaking up the bad stuff we eat and helping that bad stuff move through the body faster. More fiber causes less unhealthy fats to permeate our arteries, evens out our blood sugar, and can keep us “full” longer! These all lead to a reduced chance of cardiovascular and diabetic events.
- Healthy Fats. Healthy plant- and fish-based fats reduce your chances of cardiovascular events and help our neurons function more effectively. These fats come from flax seeds and deep-water fish such as salmon, lake trout, and albacore tuna. Often referred to as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, these fats have the power to improve blood pressure and the health of blood vessels.
- Limit Animal Products mainly red meat and other non-lean meats such as lamb that are extremely high in saturated fats. These fats are responsible for artery-clogging buildup.
Now obviously there are many more subjects such as pre and probiotics, vitamins, minerals, the timing of intake and alcohol consumption. This is only an introduction to nutrition and should serve as a seed planting conversation for further understanding.
Being active is the third and final area of physical wellness. It is purposefully at the end of this column because no amount of physical activity will allow you to achieve your goals without also sleeping and eating right. There are three basic areas of physical activity for the non-athlete to focus on. Within each domain are subcategories, but this will serve as our starting point.
All training must be done in a manner that consistently challenges and overloads the body. Without consistent progression, we will remain at the same fitness forever. The completely watered-down description of this is that everything we do for the activity must be more challenging now than the day before. Average efforts yield average results.
What are the three main areas of physical activity?
- Cardiorespiratory endurance (150 minutes or more per week) is what you think of when you see a treadmill, bike, elliptical, rower, or Stairmaster. This type of training enhances our body’s ability to deliver oxygen to its tissues during activities. It runs mostly off of fat stores in our body and therefore this type of training will mobilize, transport and burn fat in the muscles to power through activities. Within this category, we have three energy systems to train, but for now, focus on being active.
- Resistance training (2-4 times per week) is what you think of when you see bands, balls, weights, dumbbells and barbells. This type of training builds muscles and can be reduced to seven basic movements: squat, hinge, lunge, press, push, vertical pull, and horizontal pull. We need to train each of these movements two to four days a week. The more muscle we have, the more calories (or the body’s internal furnace called Basal Metabolic Rate) will burn throughout the day.
- Mobility training (2-3 times per week) is the stuff that makes us feel and move better. It includes things such as stretching, foam rolling and yoga. These activities not only increase our ability to achieve a larger range of motion (flexibility) but also our ability to recover from that range of motion (mobility).
Physical wellness has been the focus of nearly all “wellness” organizations. Why? Because they know we all can and should make changes in these categories. We each individually control our choices! We have 100 percent control of our ability to achieve these benchmarks. By striving towards change, your life will become unquestionably better.
You owe it to yourself to continue your quest or begin the journey towards physical wellness.
Tommy Showerman is the owner of Iron Health and Wellness, LLC, an online learning platform and professional wellness network focused on transforming people’s lives through wellness. He spends most of his time as a personal trainer at Genesys Athletic Club; he is also a strength and conditioning coordinator of all sports at Goodrich High School; and co-director of FUSE 90, a healthy lifestyle intervention program through Genesys Hospital. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the NSCA and a graduate of Michigan State University with degrees in both nutritional sciences and kinesiology, with additional minors in health ethics and health promotion.