Sawing Logs

Do we have to do this at the gym tomorrow?! Is this a new Strongman event?! What if I don't own a saw?! What if I'm a tree-hugger?!

No, no, sillies...this is about the importance of sleep, catching Zs, sawing logs.

Sometimes, we get so focused on what we have to do that sleep gets placed on the back burner of our priority stove...but, sleep--how much you get and the quality of sleep you get--is arguably just as important as the food you eat and the way you move your body.

Good sleep, helps our bodies and minds recover, keeping us lean, happy, mentally focused, and healthy. But chronically poor/inadequate sleep slathers on body fat, screws up our hormones, ages us faster, increases chronic illnesses, and drains our IQ and mojo.

Studies show that, "People who get at least seven hours of sleep per night tend to have less body fat than people who don't...In a study involving 9,000 people between 1982 and 1984 (NHANES I), researchers found that people who averaged six hours of sleep per night were 27 percent more likely to be overweight than their seven-to-nine hour counterparts; and those averaging five hours of sleep per night were 73 percent more likely to be overweight.


More reasons why getting adequate and restful sleep is important...

This 2010 review of the endocrine effects of sleep deprivation on humans provides a good overview of how sleep deprivation affects us hormonally:

Glucose tolerance goes down. This is a well-known phenomenon, and it’s probably one reason why chronic sleep loss is a big risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes.

Appetite increases. Leptin, the hormone that signals [fullness], is lowest in people with sleep deprivation. This is one reason that people who haven’t slept tend to crave carbohydrates and junk food more than any other food. Their ability to resist these cravings also decreases.

Cortisol rhythm gets out of whack. Normally, cortisol is highest in the morning (to wake you up) and drops through the day until the evening, when it’s lowest (to let you get to sleep). Under sleep deprivation, cortisol is still high in the morning, but the drop-off throughout the day is far more gradual – and at night, cortisol can remain elevated enough to disrupt the quality of sleep, creating a vicious lack-of-sleep + chronically elevated-cortisol level.

via Marks Daily Apple:

So, how do we improve our sleep quality?

Well, I'm glad you asked! Just as we benefit from our wake-up routines, our weekly and monthly routines, our nutrition routines and our exercise routines, we can benefit by building a solid sleep routine. Here are some helpful tips to get you sawing the biggest (loudest) logs in the forest!

I. Create and maintain a regular sleep schedule.

A. Length of sleep:
Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. 7 should be your baseline. If you know you have to wake up at 5:15 to get ready for work, then be in bed by 9:30 and asleep by 10. Getting in bed at 10:15 doesn’t count.  Also factor in transition time. Don’t stop what you’re doing at 9:29 and expect to be snoring by 9:30. Start moving in the direction of bed by 9:00.

B. Consistent sleep time:
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and night.  While it might be unrealistic to do this seven days a week, try to be as consistent as possible. If you’re consistent, your body will know when to release calming hormones before bed, and stimulating hormones to help you wake up. You’ll feel sleepy when it’s time for bed and wake up more refreshed. Heck, you may not even need that annoying alarm!

C. Try to get to bed before midnight:
According to some sleep experts, because of the way our natural circadian rhythms work, every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after.

II. Just prior to bed (in no particular order)

A. Turn off electronics:
Digital devices stimulate our brain with light, noise, and mental demands. Unplug from all screens — TVs, computers, phones, tables — at least 30 minutes before bed. (If you must read your tablet, switch the screen to the black or dimmer background. And if you’re going to be on your computer, download a program like f.lux, which decreases your screen’s color temperature at night.) Our brain produces melatonin as light levels decrease. Melatonin ensures deep sleep, and may also help regulate our metabolism. If we have too much light at night, we don’t get proper melatonin production.

B. De-Stress before bed:
What de-stresses you? Do that! This could include: Gentle movement — such as stretching, foam rolling, or yoga, or even a slow stroll around the block. Try meditation, deep breathing, or other simple relaxation exercises? Even 5-15 minutes can release tension and activate calm-down chemicals.

C. Do a brain dump:
We’ve all done it: Stared at the ceiling, long after lights-out, obsessing about all the things we’re supposed to do tomorrow, tossing and turning and getting more and more stressed by the minute. Try this instead: In the evening, take a few minutes to write out a list of whatever’s bugging you: Emails you need to send or reply to, calls you have to make, project ideas, creative thoughts, that thing you should have said to so-and-so…
Whatever is in your brain, get it out and on to paper. Keep a brain dump journal by your bed.

D. Read a book before bed — but make sure it’s not too engaging — otherwise you’ll be tempted to stay up with that thrilling detective novel until the wee hours.

E. Take a bath or shower.
While not everyone likes to shower or bathe at night, warm water before bed can help us relax and de-stress, which is key for falling asleep. If you go the warm water route, throw in some magnesium-based epsom salts as magnesium is known to help with sleep.

III. Optimize your sleep environment

In addition to creating a nightly sleep routine to help improve your sleep quality and duration, you should ensure that your sleeping environment is conducive to sleep.

A. Keep the room as dark as possible.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain that signals to your body it is time for sleep. Making your room as dark as possible will maximize your melatonin production. Dim your lights at night. Install low-wattage bulbs in your bedroom, and keep things as dim as possible in the hour before your planned bedtime. Cover your windows well. Use a motion-sensitive or dim night light if you need something to illuminate your midnight path to the bathroom. Put your iPhone in another room or flip it face down. Cover or dim the alarm clock, or look for one that illuminates only when touched. Again, if you have to use a computer late at night, download the software f.lux, which changes the brightness and tone of your screen in time with sunset and sunrise, reducing evening blue light.

B. Create a relaxing sleep area that is quiet and free of clutter.
Your bedroom should be relatively organized and peaceful. The sight of clothes strewn all over the floor or furniture, boxes or books toppling over, and tangled cords can make you feel stressed and interfere with your ability to relax. A messy room can also be dangerous if you have to get up at night to use the bathroom. Set your room to an appropriate temperature. Most people sleep better when it’s cool (around 67 F); others sleep better at a neutral temperature. Use white noise if needed. If you live in an urban environment and you tend to pop awake at the slightest sound, then a steady source of white noise could really help. Using some nature sounds on your iPhone, or even just turning on a fan (or an old radio turned to static) can be enough to drown out other noises and lull you to sleep. A HEPA filter can also work well for this purpose, serving double duty by keeping your air cleaner as well.

IV. How to wake up.

While a jarring alarm will certainly get us out of bed, it doesn't exactly start the day on an enjoyable note. Not only that, it jacks up our stress hormones immediately, starting our day in “fight or flight” mode.

Here are some more humane solutions.

A. Take advantage of natural rhythms.
Sleep occurs in multiple stages, alternating between deeper and lighter sleep. We sleep more and more lightly as the night goes on. If we wake up at just the right moment in our lighter sleep stages, we’ll feel reasonably good and snap into alertness quickly. But if we’re forced to wake up while in a deep sleep phase, we’ll feel groggy, disoriented, and sleepy — suffering from sleep inertia. There are many gadgets and apps that will sense your sleep cycles and wake you up when you’re sleeping your lightest.

For example, the iPhone SleepCycle app or SleepBot will wake you up within a pre-specified time window when it senses your wakefulness.

You can also track your sleep with gadgets and apps like Zeo or the Fitbit, which will help you gauge where to improve your sleep and wake routines.

B. Wake up to light.
The human body is designed to get sleepy when it’s dark and to wake when it is light.
However, it is not always feasible to wake up with the sun, and this is especially true if you use light blocking shades to keep your room as dark as possible.

Use a dawn-simulating alarm clock. Research shows that when people are slowly roused by gradually increasing light levels, they feel much more alert and relaxed than when they’re woken up by a sudden, blaring alarm.

Increasing light has also been shown to raise cortisol in the morning (which is an important signal to your body to wake up), and to improve sleep quality.

C. Wake up to soft, slowly-building noise.
Some types of alarm clocks (such as the Progressive Alarm Clock app) will also gradually increase noise or music, so that you’re slowly lifted out of sleep rather than being suddenly whacked in the ear with a loud morning DJ.

D. Get moving right away.
When your alarm goes off, one of the worst things you can do is hit snooze.  Snoozing seems to increase sleep inertia. Instead, once that alarm goes off, simply sit up and put your feet on the floor.  Start shambling towards the bathroom, or anywhere else that isn’t your bed.

E. Expose yourself to more light.
Whether you wake to a dawn-simulating alarm clock or not, continue to expose yourself to light as soon as possible after waking.  This will stop melatonin production and increase your wakefulness.

Throughout the day, get as much light as you can.  Most folks can sneak outside for 5-10 minutes. Run errands at lunch or eat outside. Do as much as you can to get that sunshine. The more bright natural light you can get during your normal waking time, the more your body will know to gear down at your normal sleeping time.

V. Throughout each and every day.

A. Keep alcohol and caffeine moderate.
Genuinely restful and restorative sleep comes from deep sleep. Even though it seems like booze is relaxing, more than 1-2 drinks in the evening can interfere with deep sleep, as can too much caffeine. So limit alcohol to the suggested amounts (max of 2 drinks per night for men and 1 per night for women), and reduce caffeine after 2 pm. Otherwise, although you may “sleep” for 7 hours, your sleep won’t be high quality, and you won’t get the recovery benefits.

B. Eat and drink appropriately.
Having a large meal immediately before bed can disrupt your ability to fall and stay asleep.  Instead, eat a regular-sized (or even smallish) meal a few hours before bedtime. A nice blend of protein, carbs and fats will help to keep you satiated, and might even improve your ability to fall asleep as your brain converts carbs to serotonin. In addition, try to limit your fluids 2-3 hours before bedtime. Drinking too much liquid shortly before bed can result in frequent waking for bathroom breaks. While total sleep time is important, uninterrupted sleep time is even better.

C. Exercise regularly.
Exercising regularly helps normalize circadian rhythms, tone down the sympathetic nervous system, and regulate endocrine function. However, save the intense exercise for during the day, if possible — a weights or interval workout in the evening can rev us up and make it tougher to get to sleep.


Just like you can’t go from 0 to 100 first thing in the morning, you can’t do the reverse at night — going from “on” to “off” in a few minutes. Thus, the first step to getting more and better sleep is to create a nighttime routine and environment that tells your body that you are preparing to go to sleep. Over time, if you’re consistent, your body will start the process of gearing down automatically.

Make good sleep a priority. Your physical, mental, and emotional well being will thank you. Zzzzzzzzzzz! - Amber St. Claire

Just cause I thought this was hilarious and fitting for Amber's blog post. - Erica

Just cause I thought this was hilarious and fitting for Amber's blog post. - Erica