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Leftfield 101: Recovery - Enter Sandman
By: Leftfield Training

“The creature is regenerating itself.”
— George Carlin


In training to look, feel and perform at our best we all get caught up in the details - exercises, muscles, programs, distance, speed, time, days, sets and reps. We dial in our nutrition focusing on what we are eating, how much and when.

In the absence of quality sleep, at best it's all trivial, more likely, irrelevant.

Sleep remains largely a mystery, and any understanding we have of it's purpose, is divined only through what we are able to measure in it's absence - physical and mental decay. We fatigue physically, but we also diminish our ability to learn new skills, solve problems and create new memories. Good sleep is essential to our health and survival. Almost everyone needs 7-9 hours of quality sleep to be at peak performance, but few get that regularly.

Adults on average get around 7 hours of sleep per night - which is about right, but 33 % of us get less than 6.5 hours, and that can lead to problems. Women tend to sleep a bit more than men, and those who carry high levels of body fat tend to sleep less than those with normal levels.

We also sleep in roughly 90 minute cycles, in which from a light surface level REM sleep, we descend into deep sleep before ascending to the lighter surface level again. We should aim for 4-5 of these cycles every 24 hours, and not necessarily all at once - worth noting if your schedule allows for a long nap.

If you find it difficult to wake up in the morning, or feel groggy and unrested, it may be because you are always trying to rouse yourself from the middle of this cycle. Correspondingly, we can actually sleep less, but feel more awake and rested if we wake during the beginning/end phase of the cycle.

So why do we most of us get such poor quality sleep? You are probably already hauling the usual suspects of modern society into the lineup - high work loads, lack of time and stress, but when it comes to our (lack of) sleep they are rarely to blame. At least not directly.

The boffins call it ''voluntary bedtime delay', but we know it better as choice.

We watch TV
We surf internet
We go out with friends
We stay in with friends
With social media, we stay in, our friends stay in, and we still spend time with them.
So although the usual suspects may be innocent on this occasion, the problem is still a modern one.

Artificial lighting gave us control over dawn and dusk, and this has been further magnified by television, computers and the internet. Quite simply, we have more options. It gets dark and with still plenty of things we can be doing, no end of things competing for our attention, we no longer have to be home in bed and so most of the time we aren't. But when it comes to the consequences of late nights and disrupted sleep, we really need to wakeup.

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Added: 02-09-2015