Are You Too Tired To Thrive?
Fact: we live in a stressful, productivity-driven society that imposes a fast pace upon us. We therefore need as much energy as we can muster if we want a shot at performing well in all areas of life. Sadly, more and more people are chronically fatigued by modern-day hectic lifestyle. As a result many turn to stimulants in an effort to mitigate fatigue.
Yet for all their media exposure, stimulants and energy boosting strategies prove to be very ineffective long term. Sadly, these methods seem to be the only solution most supplement companies have to offer. This despite the heavy toll they place on our bodies.
Lack of Sleep
My take on this is that instead of focusing on the energy part of the equation, aka the Yang side, you’d be better off taking the opposite approach and pampering recovery. Using energy boosting supplements and lifestyle hacks are, of course, viable strategies. And I encourage you to explore them. But, in my experience, catering for the Yin will yield greater results and, in the end, nothing can replace a good night of rest. To me, sleep is and will always remain the most underrated factor in recovery.
The epic level of insomnia our society is witness to proves that this seems to be the least-considered course of action… Indeed, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s inaugural Sleep Health Index™ forty-five percent of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affects their daily activities and this at a frequency of at least once a week.
I too was guilty of that faulty thought process. In my world, sleep was a waste of time. I only slept 4 to 5 hours a night in order to do more work. But in the end, it catches up to you. Scientists have identified sleep as one of the cornerstone of mental and physical health. Thomas Dekker said it best:
“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together”
So, as boring as it sounds, sleep weights the most in the recovery equation. You can carb up all you please, quality sleep will always trump the cortisol mitigating effect of carbs. Nor will any amount of stretching sessions ever rival the anti-inflammatory benefits of plain old sleep.
Face it, there is simply no way around it – sleep is the number one recovery tool in our box.
To illustrate my point I always give my students the analogy of the oil lamp because it is so telling. The flame represents energy, drive, focus, mental stamina. These are the Yang qualities. Fine. But then, I remind them that you can’t sustain a big flame if the oil reserve gets low. The flame will flicker and die. Sleep is the best way to restore your Yin reserve. And any serious trainee can attest to the fact that you can only train as hard as you rest and recover.
Lack of sleep is common nowadays. Interestingly, so is weight gain. For all the fat loss strategies available, the obesity curve keeps creeping up. Actually – surprise, surprise –the sleep deprivation and obesity curves perfectly match. Several physiological factors account for this phenomenon.
Sleep Loss and Weight Gain
The Leptin/Ghrelin Dynamic Duo
The leptin/ghrelin duo bears a significant sway on body composition. These two hormones monitor the energy balance. Ghrelin acts fast on a meal to meal basis. And influences appetite. Simply stated ghrelin is the hunger hormone. Too much ghrelin makes your body crave fatty and sugary foods, as Dr. Winter explains. Basically, stomach emptying correlates with an increase in ghrelin and triggers appetite.
Leptin on the other hand acts on the long term. It is a somewhat trickier hormone as leptin resistance is a common feature amongst obese people. So we would be hard put to establish a direct causal relationship between leptin levels and satiety. This topic lies outside the scope of this article, but let’s keep it simple and say that, if every bodily systems were to work properly, elevated leptin levels would coincide with proper regulation of appetite and be congruent with healthy levels of leanness.
Considering that running low on rest can increase the production of ghrelin in your gut, it stands to reason that poor sleep can also mess with leptin. The disturbance on this satiety hormone, can be due to either tampering with receptor sensitivity or hormone production. Hence lack of sleep actually creates the perfect hormonal storm that turns you into an indiscriminate eating machine.
Poor sleep quality/quantity quite obviously affects hormonal balance. And the list of affected hormones is long. To name one pivotal hormone, let’s consider Growth Hormone. Any sleep disruption will assuredly impact GH release since its release obeys sleep cycles. It so happens that GH peaks during deep sleep stages.
As you may already know, sleep is a highly architectured process. Several stages follow and build upon one another. Simply put, Slow Wave Sleep and Rapid Eye Movement Sleep alternate in cycles. Each cycle lasts approximately 90 min and is a mixture of SWS and REM. Normally as the night unfolds REM sleep duration gets longer and longer at the expense of SWS. Yet this ratio is affected by previous night sleep quality. So, a bad night will shorten the SWS, which turns out to be the exact time GH is released. It is a well-documented fact that optimal body composition relies heavily on GH levels.
Melatonin & Cortisol
Melatonin is another necessary hormone for sleep onset. And it is also affected by poor quality sleep. This is one of those vicious circle the body is so found of creating for us. Poor quality sleep translates into low melatonin which makes sleep harder to get by… and so on and so forth.
Poor quality sleep and lack of sleep tend to disrupt the normal production of cortisol. This can lead to inverted cortisol rhythms where cortisol levels are high at night and low in the morning. This translates into overuse of the snooze button and an inability to get to sleep at night. To add insult to injury, cortisol dysregulations also impact DHEA production – with the infamous “pregnenolone steal” phenomenon – and wreak havoc on your recovery abilities and performance, since both hormones use the same building blocks.
Sleep remains the ideal time for tissue repair since GH is released at that time. In the same vein, melatonin which is the brain main antioxidant, is liberated at night and combats inflammation. Well, if sleep quality is subpar both hormones are lowered and this means a shift towards catabolic state – this is endocrine environment most conductive for losing muscles and putting on fat! Oh and, poor sleep also impacts Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which will cause deep perturbations in the metabolic rate and… eventually –you’ve guessed it – a tendency to accumulate unwanted adipose tissue at high speed.
Lack of sleep directly and negatively affects the metabolism Dr. Winter underlines. An experiment conducted on rats exposed the animals to prolonged, complete sleep deprivation. In the end both food intake and energy expenditure increased. Interestingly the net effect tipped towards weight loss and ultimately death. While this study poses as a hypothesis that sleep debt associates with increased appetite and energy expenditure. We have to bear in mind that, in societies where high-calorie food is freely available, the equation sways towards food intake rather than expenditure. Robb Wolf perfectly explains the concept of optimal food foraging and its significance on modern day society in his book Wired To Eat:
Our genetics are expecting an environment in which procuring a meal requires a significant amount of energy, but we were pitched a curveball by the changes in not just our food supply but also our sleep and activity patterns. Nature does not exist in a supermarket. We now live in a state of plenty unimaginable a few hundred years ago.
Hence, while lack of sleep should lead to dramatic weight loss, it turns out food availability and hyperpalatability reverse the outcome and leaves us fatter and more tired. Not exactly the recipe for the perfect beach body.
Another bodily system that takes a turn for the worst with sleep deprivation is the immune system. “If you’re not sleeping properly there can be significant issues in terms of your body’s ability to fight off infections,” Dr. Winter points out. In particular, you might find that it’s harder to shake off a cold. A 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine followed the sleeping habits of 153 volunteers for 14 days straight. Researchers found that people who got less than seven hours of sleep were nearly three times as likely to develop a cold than those who got eight hours or more rest a night. So, if sleep leaves to be desired in term of quality or quantity, you get sick more often, it’s plain and simple. Before you shrug this off, bear in mind that a couple poor night sleep are enough to display a remarkable impact.
Circadian Rhythm and Immunity
Science is making strides in trying to fathom the complexities of such mechanisms, as exemplified by this year Novel Price, and even if scientists are still unsure about the exact mechanisms through which the circadian system strongly influences the regulatory processes that pertain to immunity, effects are very real.
During daytime the immune cells exert immediate functions and at this time of the day the immune processes players such as cytotoxic natural killer cells are the most active. This allows the body to fight off efficiently any incoming antigenic intruder. Conversely, at night time, undifferentiated naïve T cells, and pro-anti-inflammatory cytokines get the lion share. These act more slowly in the sense that they initiate the adaptive immune response. During Slow Wave Sleep which greater proportion occurs mainly during the early night, the anti-inflammatory actions of cortisol and catecholamines know an all-time low. Thus the early sleep endocrine milieu is supportive of the formation of the memory of our immune cells. Hence the proper unfolding of the circadian rhythm bears a heavy sway on immunity.
When this rhythm is thrown out of whack, as occurs with sleep deprivation, the stressed body produces a defense response that includes an unspecific production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This state can be best described as a chronic low-grade inflammation. This leads to a host of problems since inflammation lies at the root of all diseases known to man… Plus, every single cell in the body can be subject to inflammation, even the gut.
The gut is more than a digestive machine. It actually manufactures 95% of your serotonin and about 50% of your dopamine. It even sports its own nervous system –the enteric nervous system is actually able to work autonomously. As far as I know we don’t have to consciously command gastric juice to be delivered to our stomach, nor do we remind ourselves to pour out bicarbonate to neutralize the highly acidic gastric juices once the bolus gets down to the intestines. In order to orchestrate these complicated tasks our gut is the proud owner of about as many neurons as the brain of a small dog. And it is chatty too, as a great deal of crosstalk occurs between the CNS and the ENS.
The gut also hosts 60% of your immune system.
The gut stands interestingly at the meeting point of self and non-self. It is the great negotiator as Dr. Jillian Sarno Teta is found of saying. Tolerization is a process through which immune system gets acclimatized to food and bacteria. It learns that there are some instances wherein the body can’t afford to direct immune response against the “non-self”. This is why you don’t get an anaphylactic shock every time you eat. Which could prove slightly inconvenient. Unfortunately with gut lining injuries or in case of a leaky gut we lose the benefits from tolerization. This is the entry point to food intolerance and even auto-immune diseases.
Yet the body has an elegant parry to this. Sleep is the most favorable time for gut lining repair. Conversely lack of sleep induce isntestinal permeability. TFF2, a peptide that repairs gut lining, is most active at night. Melatonin which is also produced in a circadian fashion in the gut helps repair the gut mucous.
Therefore sleep quality influences gut health and consequently nutrient absorption and, down the line, affects our nutritional status. It can make us prone to ulcers, reflux, inflammatory bowel disease etc as well. Influence goes both way. If light exposure looms large when it comes to sleep onset as the nefarious effects of blue light are now abundantly documented, still other cues shave a significant impact. And food intake regulates sleep alongside other Zeitgebers (namely, light exposure, accumulation of adenosine, social interactions…) I like to say that sleep is most likely the only intermittent fasting you’ll ever need! Night time offers us 6 to 8 hours of rest for the digestive system, it is maintenance time, so to speak. Closed-eye time appears to help reset many hormonal pathways, insulin receptors being a case in point as far as re-sensitization goes.
Rob Wolf phrases it perfectly “a night of poor missed sleep can make one as insulin resistant as a type 2 diabetic.” And it is a well-known fact that poor sleep correlates with decreased tolerance to carbs. In 2005, a study examined over 1400 participants the results highlight the fact that people who slept very little, aka only a few hours, were more likely to have associations with type 2 diabetes. What’s more, a 2012 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that just four and a half hours of sleep for four days straight can reduce your fat cells’ ability to respond to insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating energy, by 30%.
Science is yet unable to elucidate all the underlying mechanisms responsible for the down-regulation of the insulin sensitivity. But it appears that cells get the opportunity to grow sensitive to insulin during sleep. Scientists have shed light on a cellular process at the level of adipocytes that explains why insulin sensitivity diminishes with lack of sleep. It boils down to the action of one molecule. Akt turns on in presence of insulin (it then becomes pAkt – the p stands for phosphorylated). pAkt allows in turn insulin to enter the cells. Sleep reduction means that our body goes through the Akt pool quick and the same goes with the pAkt, thus making the fat cells unresponsive to insulin.
Also as we have seen previously, sleep deprivation is conductive to inflammatory states. And inflammatory markers such as (IκB kinase complex, protein kinase 1 and 2 and JNK) hinder the proper functioning of insulin receptors which dampens insulin signaling pathways as well.
An altered melatonin profile represents another potential pathway for the development of insulin resistance. And there is some evidence that melatonin may inhibit glucose-induced insulin release.
Aside from the physiological impact, lack of sleep is notorious for impairing judgment. Getting decent sleep is crucial for brain health in the long term. Research from the National Institutes of Health showed that in mice, sleep helps clear toxic molecules from the brain. Remember that, melatonin being able to cross the Brain Blood Barrier, is the number one antioxydant for the brain.
Poor sleep, means your decision making abilities take a nose dive. A 2009 study in Sleep: had sleep-deprived and well-rested volunteers perform a set of tasks that required quick decision-making. They had two trials. The subjects that didn’t get enough sleep saw their performances decrease on test number 2 (2,4% down) on the other hand the subjects who had had enough sleep approved by 4,3%. All in all, lack of sleep not only decreases our ability to make decisions but cause these to take a turn for the worst with repetition – instead of improving as it should.
One of the most obvious portion of your life decision making will impact is, of course, diet.
People tend to act without thinking when they are exhausted, says Gail Saltz, MD, Health‘s contributing psychology editor. “Your ability to say, ‘No, I shouldn’t have another candy bar’ becomes more difficult. Rob Wolf also makes a pointed comment on the subject in his great book Wired To Eat:
If people just slept we’d likely not need to concern about diet at all. I’m not saying we could eat refined junk all day long and not suffer the consequences, but good sleep buys us a lot of latitude in our eating. The opposite is also true, as poor sleep necessitates a fair amount of focus on our food, lest we find ourselves facing some serious health problems. If you want more latitude on your food, you need to sleep better.
Your Brain On Snooze
Appart from decision making, poor sleep adversely affects the brain and cognitive function. A 2000 study, by the UCSD School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in San Diego, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to monitor activity in the brains of sleep-deprived subjects performing simple verbal learning tasks. The study showed that regions of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, an area that supports mental faculties such as working memory and logical and practical (“means-ends”) reasoning, displayed more activity in sleepier subjects. So it seems that our brains have to work harder when sleep deprived in an attempt to offset the negative impact of lack of sleep.
2001 study at the Chicago Medical Institute suggested that sleep deprivation may be linked to serious diseases, such as heart disease and mental illness including psychosis and bipolar disorder. A 2007 study at Harvard Medical School and the University of California at Berkeley shed further light on the link between sleep deprivation and psychosis. Thanks to MRI scans the study revealed that sleep-deprived brains become incapable of putting an emotional event into the proper perspective and incapable of making a controlled, suitable response to the event.
Likewise, the temporal lobe, a brain region involved in language processing, activates during verbal learning in rested subjects contrary to their sleep-deprived counterparts.
Impaired motor skills & Higher Injury Risks
“When you’re tired, there’s a lapse in how you neurologically function in general,” Dr. Winter says. Your reaction time lowers and so does your concentration skills. Movement in general, and more particularly in sports, involves processing information output from the environment as well as analyzing inner information about muscle length, tonus etc. ack of sleep hinders such mental processing to the extend of making these inefficient. Dr. Winter underlines: “When sleep deprived you can’t process particularly well.” Which is likely to make you uncoordinated.
In addition, as a result of continuous muscular activity without proper rest time, effects such as cramping are much more frequent in sleep-deprived individuals. In extreme cases, hernias, muscle fascia tears, and other such overexertion problems may occur during lower intensity efforts.
Enters Yin Reserve
By now, you have a good understanding of how important sleep is and you may be wondering if there is a single aspect of human performance that poor sleep does not negatively affect. I have designed my new product form the ATP Lab Black Belt Series: Yin Reserve bearing this in mind. That’s why I have hand-picked each ingredient of Yin Reserve to optimize sleep.
Is a sugar that behaves as a vitamin B. It acts as a thermostat in that it regulates neurotransmitters and will even up unbalances. It also reduces anxiety and has anti anxiolytic and anti-panic effects.
L-Theanine acts on the brain to improve GABA receptor sensitivity. It boils down to L-theanine being both a relaxing agent without sedation.
Magnesium glycerophosphate and magnesium taurate
Magnesium glycerophosphate and Taurate help calm down the nervous system by downing sympathetic activity.
Here is what people have been saying about Yin Reserve:
Sleep is my drug.
However, this doesn’t mean that I’m particularly good at sleeping.
After nine years as a bikini competition, coaching and building my new company ADN, you can say that my stress level is pretty high.
I’m very prone to insomnia and working out countless hours I jus wanted to get as many hours of sleep… as soon as possible!
Most busy persons I know feel the same.
So, if you’ve ever walked through the day more like a zombie — if you passionately hate the sound of your alarm clock and hit the “snooze” button every morning — you need to build the perfect sleep routine. Now everynight I use Charles’ YIN reserve formula with 1 cap of stressless from ATP. This blend is an absolute essential for me as it increases my energy for the next day. It is a must try !!
Cynthia Benoit, IFBB Pro
Being a person that can easily sleep and already taking a handful of magnesium and adaptogens, I did not think I would benefit much from this supplement.
Well, let me tell you! the Yin Reserve by Strength Sensei Nutraceuticals is a supplement like none other! It has been a game changer for me!
It will put you in the deepest sleep you’ve ever experienced, and wake up most rejuvenated! My workout and energy was optimal through the next day. I highly recommend this product, not only for a restful and sound sleep, but also for an overall wellbeing!
P.S. Some of my insomniac family and friends were knocked out in a few minutes after taking it! Can’t wait to recommend it to our clients!
Jackie Kalfayan, Posturepro Team
“I literally shut down mentally and physically on it at night to get a deep sleep. Like nothing I’ve ever used”
Matt Wenning, Powerlifting legend
One word to describe Yin reserve, wow! Deep and restorative sleep every night. After only 2 weeks using it I feel so much better, I have more energy through the day and my mood is enhanced. I recommend it strongly to everyone out there!
Jessie Pinault Bikini Competitor, ATP
But don’t take their word for it and try it for yourself: