Sleep like a ninja

In Make you strong, steps by Colin Chambers0 Comments


Christmas is finished and you’re now in the recovery phase. Hopefully you had a great time, though right now you’re probably just:

  • Tired
  • Skint
  • Back at work
  • Bored

I call this the recovery phase of christmas simply because it’s normal to feel like this after all that fun so there is no point in beating ourselves up about it.

Good health is just about restoring balance which is why recovery is generally the most important aspect of any healthy lifestyle or training plan and recovery from Christmas is no different.

we don’t grow during the day, we grow during sleep

Which leads us nicely to the topic of sleep which I have had in the back of my mind for a long time. The value of good quality sleep in any healthy lifestyle is important because, to put it bluntly, we don’t grow during the day, we grow during sleep

It is one of those counter intuitive truths that makes all the difference.

Why do we sleep?

I really like Russell Fosters explanation as to  the question Why do we sleep?  though it’s such a big topic you may not have the time to watch the video. The best way I know to explain it to you quickly and clearly is to use Christmas itself as an example. To do this I will ask you a simple quesiton:

Do you improve your home while friends and family come to stay during Christmas or do you improve it afterwards when everything is quite?

The answer to this question is obvious because nobody does repair or building work when they have people to stay unless it’s really urgent or a surprise. Your body works the same way when it schedules repairs and improvements. During the day and particularly around the time you work out your body halts all repair work because you are busy.

The body schedules the majority of repair work to be completed during times that you are sleeping because it is the only time it can guarantee that you won’t be doing anything important. That said many repairs take longer to complete than one sleep cycle so without regular quality sleep the repair backlog can easily build up leading to your body and mind functioning poorly or even badly which in regular language means you feel tired and sluggish or you become ill.

That’s a high level summary of much of the research I have read on sleep. I share the analogy because it puts the process of sleep into a normal understandable cycle of life that makes sense. The main point being that you don’t undertake repairs when you are entertaining you wait for quiet times. Yet your house will get worse if you don’t schedule quiet time to do repairs and maintenance and your body is declining if you are not making enough quality sleep possible.

Value the process of growing

Hopefully my explanation and analogy makes sense to you and gives a clear reason why you should enjoy down time and taking time out for yourself instead of feeling that you must always be “getting things done” every second.

In the Christmas analogy you don’t grow while you are entertaining and getting things done, you grow when you aren’t doing anything but sleeping and so if you don’t take time to do nothing but sleep then you can’t grow so you can’t do anything better than you do already. In fact you will get progressively worse.

The deeper explanation is that a good night of sleep is like hosing down your filthy brain

Lots of work does not guarantee lots of sleep

As a parent I hear all the time that tiring little people out guarantees they sleep well and in many cases that’s true but we also know that any one little or otherwise can be over tired and that merely means too much work in some way.  Research backs this up and shows that exercise is no quick cure for insomnia which really just means that hard work, exercise all things that push you hard are crucial to create the need for sleep but they don’t guarantee that quality sleep will occur ot that you will sleep at all.

Is sleep a skill?

I’m not being deliberately vague in this analysis I’m just trying to share how complex the process actually is. Each year research on sleep shows just how little we know and how much more there is to learn.

I think getting quality sleep is a skill not just a biological process because the more I explore what I need to get quality sleep and the more I learn about other peoples experiences I find that the more you practice sleeping well and the more you do what is necessary for you to sleep well the better you sleep in general.

Over time I will share more but for now I just wanted to start the discussion by highlighting the need for taking time off and encourage you to take your time off more seriously than you probably do. Value the benefits that time off brings and what it can teach you such as:

  • seeing the bigger picture
  • slowing down to enjoy each moment
  • giving yourself space to recover and regenerate

Does sleep prevent disease?

The data is actually pretty clear that people who sleep well have less disease but you have to do a lot of reading to see it. If you take the time to go through the articles I have linked to then you will understand the role of sleep in speeding up the brains waste disposal process.

You will then understand how speeding up brain’s waste disposal may slow down neurodegenerative diseases. This is one study of many I have found that show the health benefit of getting your body to run properly and of course getting quality sleep.

Ninjas must sleep while staying alert

So I must explain why I referred to Ninjas don’t I. The concept of a Ninja is that they are always alert and must always be prepared, night or day Christmas or not and so they are  the epitome of the always alert individual that we always hear about.

On the flip side experienced Ninjas are well aware that they must always be prepared and thus well rested so they must learn how to rest properly. If you ever look into it you will find that it is very much a black art that each Ninja must learn themselves which unfortunately is the same today.

The best sleep I have ever had

Though I am finding that seeing quality sleep as a skill in itself and thus something that I can and should learn is in itself a powerful change in the way I think. It means I have gained control over how I recover and consequently how I feel much of the time. That simple change in mindset has seen this last year as the best I have ever slept as an adult and consequently the best I have ever felt.

 

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