How to Be the Best Version of You; Part 1 Sleep

Hi, remember that little chat we had, the one where I reminded you of your why. Read here in case you missed it because fully embracing that will be the fuel to ignite the fire to follow through.

I have trained countless people of all levels of fitness, from elite athletes to elderly and children. The building blocks to becoming the best version of yourself are the same for everyone. It all starts with sleep, nutrition, and training or quality of training coupled with persistence, commitment, and dedication. This week we are going to focus on sleep. Fix your sleep or rather lack of sleep, and then working on the other building blocks become much easier.

You see our society has fallen to terrible levels of health in every facet. What has become the new normal as far as diet, portions of food consumed, level of activity, which is near zero, quality and amount of sleep, and stress levels are so unhealthy it is nearly the same as consuming poison on a daily basis. The human body is made to physically work hard, eat an abundance of natural foods, and sleep many hours in order to do it all again the next day.

If we were to rewind the clock to roughly only 100 years back and look at human history, the way people lived were exactly the way we were designed. It has only been in the modern age, that in spite of amazing achievements in medicine and vast amounts of knowledge, the human condition is degrading.

Consider because of all of our wonderful inventions like the automobile, washers and dryers, and electricity to only name a few, the amount of actual physical working hours for most people has gone from a near full 8-10 hour day to nearly zero minutes. Today from the time people wake up until they go to bed, the actual amount of physical movement is so minimal that it isn’t even considered any type of exercise. People drive everywhere, no one actually walks any decent distance daily, which would be 3-5 miles, let alone even run it.

With all of our modern inventions Americans don’t have to do any type of physical labor in their daily routine, resulting in not building any amount of strength and actual muscle wasting in adults. With electricity, our light bulbs are burning long into the night, televisions are running 24-7 entertainment, and cities remain lit all night. People sleep as little as possible due to the fact that the lights are on and we don’t have to go to sleep because we can keep doing a million things. Humans aren’t meant to turn to goo, eat chemical laden food, and stay awake into the wee hours of the night, but never the less the human condition is becoming pathetic.

As sad as this is, there is one segment of our society that must not become reduced to this disparaging level, and that is those who have sworn to uphold the laws of this land. You are too important and needed. I know I hear your excuses coming as to why it is hard to eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. I won’t take them because I know you can. I just have to explain how you can do it.

So let’s get back to the first of the basic building blocks, which is sleep.

I am starting with sleep because everyone’s sleep is so jacked up and the results are pretty devastating. Sleep is such an important contributing part of our health and performance, and it actually aids in healing many things your body is dealing with. The majority of adults should get no less than an average of 8 hours of sleep per night, however many adults only get 5-6 hours of sleep per night. Anything less than 8 hours and especially less than 6 hours of sleep and your body will respond in devastating ways such as:

  • Time to physical exhaustion drops by 10-30 percent
  • Aerobic output is significantly reduced
  • Decreased limb extension force and vertical jump height
  • Decreased peak and sustained muscle strength
  • Impairments in cardiovascular, metabolic, and respiratory capabilities
  • Faster rates of lactic acid buildup
  • Reductions in blood oxygen saturation
  • Reduction in the amount of air that the lungs can expire
  • Reduction in memory, ability to multi-task, and creativity
  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety
  • Reduction in hormone regulation
  • Reduction in physical health and longevity

If this list isn’t convincing you then, re-read it! All of that affects you as an overall person and as a member of the Law Enforcement community. If you aren’t 100 percent, then you can’t perform 100 percent!

But I have kids! Yes I have them too and they need more sleep than you do. They are growing and need an average of 10 hours per night. So set up a routine and put them to bed, so that you can go to bed. There are plenty of books on this, search out the advice, follow it, fix the issues, and everyone will get the right amount of sleep.

I have a second job. I volunteer in my community. I coach my kid’s team. Yes, I understand, I have been there, have done them, and I am still doing some of them. There are some phases of life that are so busy that your head just spins. You may not be able to go to bed early every night, but you need to change some things in order to get the right amount of sleep at least 5 nights of the week. If your plate is too full, take some things off.

Remember, you are important, and you can’t do a great job at being you, unless you are doing a great job of taking care of you.

If you are one of those people that is trying to do everything, yet your health is suffering and your so stressed out that you are running on fumes and suffering from adrenal fatigue, then you need to let some things go! Pry those fingers off some of your commitments and let some other people do it. It will be ok, I promise.

I can’t fall asleep, and I just lay there tossing and turning with thoughts running through my mind! I understand and that is truly annoying. There are reasons for that, and habits that you need to change in order to be able to fall asleep. We aren’t machines that can be turned off the minute our heads hit the pillow, but there are things you can do to help yourself fall asleep quicker and get a more restful nights sleep.

  • Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before your bedtime
  • Avoid getting your heart rate up 2 hours before bedtime
  • Avoid a heavy meal at least 2 hours before bedtime
  • Turn the TV, cell phone, social media, computer, or video games off, these will keep you awake
  • Make your sleep area quite, dark, and cool

While these are some of the basics, there are other things you can do to help you fall asleep. Often times the reason we can’t fall asleep is because our mind is running on about all the things we need to do, problems we need to solve, things we are worrying about, or other issues. When all things are quiet, the mind finally is able to process the information that has been packed in there. Finding ways to put those things away in order to fall asleep is often the key to getting a restful night’s sleep.

Write it down!

Grab a notebook, piece of paper, or journal, and write down the thoughts you are having. If it’s your to do list, then write that list down. This way you won’t forget and you can rest easy knowing you will tackle it tomorrow.

If it is a problem you are dealing with, make a pro’s and con’s list about the issue, and resolve to deal with it tomorrow. You will be able to temporarily walk away from it, in order to sleep, if you have been able to put those thoughts on paper. Once you have written it all down, lie back down and start to work on calming your mind.

Sleep will come.

For many people, it takes several days to several weeks to develop good sleep habits and actually become successful in getting real restful sleep every night. However, the benefits are astounding! Once you become rested every night, so many issues begin to be resolved. Your overall mood and outlook on your life will shift from negative to positive. Taking on your day, even as busy as it is, will no longer be so burdensome; it will be manageable and even enjoyable. Most importantly, once you get the right amount of sleep, fixing you nutrition habits and training properly will be so easy to do. Fix your sleep and next we will tackle fixing your nutrition and crushing your workouts!

– Marjorie Greene, CF-L2, USAW, CF Kids Certified