Body Clock, hormones and those damn stress levels
As avid members of the animal kingdom, we are slaves to the circadian biological clock. You may believe that you are fully in control of when you go to sleep and when you wake up however this is only partially true.
As the self proclaimed leaders of the animal kingdom we have become creatures of habit. Some habits are good, some habits are not.
We are curious beings and therefore a lot of research has been done into the effects of sleep and the body clock, and although we are always told that we are individuals and each persons genetic makeup is slightly different, we do all follow the same pattern.
Homeostasis is defined as:
” the tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.”
In layman terms, this simply means your body has a go to setting that it prefers to be at.
The body has multiple systems that require different levels of homeostasis within them. The sleep/wake homeostasis within us is a restorative process that helps us make up for the hours of being awake. If this existed solely by itself then we would wake up feeling most alert and gradually tail off towards the end of our day.
However, the internal Circadian biological clock regulates the timing of periods of wakefulness and sleepiness throughout the day. This is something that affects living beings from ourselves down to bacteria.
OPEX recently did a fantastic article on the hormones of the body.
In Blue we have melatonin and in red we have cortisol (your stress hormone). It is important to note that cortisol will rise in both training and work environments. If Cortisol is high, your sleep will be delayed. A strong argument for training too late in the evening.
Of course this varies slightly from individual to individual. As some of you will have experienced in the past few weeks, you may find it a bit more difficult to sleep after pushing yourselves in the Open and this is simply down to those levels of cortisol being higher than usual.
Age is another factor in the circadian biological clock. As most of us full between the ages of 26-64, the recommended sleep period is 7-9 hours with 10 hours being optimal for certain individuals. As teenagers, this can be up to 11 hours.
An Adult’s strongest sleep drive will be between 2-4am and between 1-3pm in the afternoon. This is when the CBC (It was just becoming a mouthful..) encourages our body to sleep, a strong argument for the mediterranean siesta.
As stress in the primary cause of lack of sleep in London, I will link the four recommended simple ways to combat stress below provided by OPEX.
- Mindfulness/meditation – there’s a plethora of methods out there which can be a little confusing at first. I’d recommend the free app ‘Headspace’ which runs a free ten day course for ten minutes a day [you can repeat is as often as you’d like].
- Breathing – spend time practicing quality deep breaths where you aim to fill the belly with air. 50 quality breaths (3 sec inhale, 3 sec hold, 3 sec exhale, 3 sec hold) DAILY is good practice and the evening is an ideal time to perform these.
- Dry skin brushing – this provides a multitude of benefits, with a parasympathetic stimulus being just one. Start out with a soft natural fibre brush and spend ten minutes brushing towards the heart starting from the extremities.
- Brain dump – on those evenings where your mind is running with thoughts, ideas, or worries, get them on paper. Writing them out, creating a todo list can be a powerful tool to ‘empty’ them from your brain. I write them out on paper then put them on an app called ‘Todoist’ in the morning to avoid using a device at night.
– Coach Mike