By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
March 3, 2016
I’m gonna level with you….I have been having a lot of problems lately. It has negatively affected me a bit, making me a little less energetic during the day and turning me into a moody monster when I find myself alone for any reason. Part of it is due to my job, where I work 12 hours days and am so wired by the time I get home, no matter how tired my body feels, it is difficult to find any sleep. Needless to say, my sleep problems are starting to crop up once again. Perhaps this is the fact it is starting get a little warmer in the evening now, or perhaps stress about money, my body and the lack of relationships has kind of affected my mental health. I don’t really know what the issue is for me these days, but it has gotten worse for me. So much so to the point that I will finish this blog around midnight, not because I felt like staying up or something, but because I really didn’t feel all that tired!
For many years, I really struggled with sleep, primarily due to my poor diet and the fact that every now and then I would wake up with a throat on fire and a stomach that felt like a lead brick. I paid dearly for this problem, for there were many days where I would literally sleep walk through the afternoon, and I was working a job that required me to be alert and such. But I always survived, and even though the sleep issues are causing my eyes to sink and form some bags, I can still get through the day most of the time. Fortunately, I have plenty of time to nap during the day, but it is never for very long. Now, I can try to go to sleep earlier or sleep later, but like I said, my head is wired so much with stress, that sometimes I have to stay up until I legitimately get tired. Of course, there is the other problem I keep running into now…my funny and cute dogs. Rusty and Scarlett, my two little chihuahua mixes, are about as good of a pair of pups you can have. They demand daily walks, which keeps me on my toes because that means I have to get off my rump and actually go outside during my days off. I never used to walk at all until I got my pup Rusty way back in 2009, and I only started doing it because he was morbidly obese and needed to shed some pounds. The day I had to chase Rusty when he escaped his leash was one of he more embarrassing moments of my life, for I nearly passed out after 100 meters and was breathing so heavily, it felt like my lungs would explode. Of course, it took me a couple years to really do anything to fix this problem, but hey, it just goes to show change comes rather slowly in my life. Anyway, my dogs are very good with routine, much like myself so to speak. They developed some rather good habits when I started working the morning shifts at work on the weekends, getting up at four in the morning right along with me. They learned to not hesitate in eating their food, which they voraciously eat. They also learned that when I threw them outside, it would be the last shot they would have to relieve themselves. I usually didn’t return for over 13 hours, and they are always desperate to get out of the house when I get home. I don’t get mad at them if they run down the street a little for I can’t really punish them for my decisions. And plus, they never make mistakes anymore, and if they do urinate, they do it in the kitchen!
Well, my pups developed a very strict morning routine, so right around 5 a.m. or so, they start crying. This is their way of telling me they need to be fed or go to the restroom, which I can’t really figure out which one they need to do more. Either way, they usually force me out of bed, let them out and then a few minutes later, they want back in. I usually don’t go back to sleep during this, for when I usually wake up, I stay up. So you can imagine the issue when I stay up late due to an unrelaxed mind and then get up early due to my lovable pets. It’s been tough on me so to speak, for the end of the day, I just feel like doing nothing. I think this is the biggest reason why my running has fallen off since Ragnar Del Sol. I’m so exhausted that I keep telling myself that I will run the next day…which I then don’t do. Today I will try to break that horrible cycle, mainly because I just feel like I have become super lazy in just about everything. Now, I can blame this whole sleep problem on myself, which is easy. I should stop taking naps during the day, but there are times where I just plop myself on a couch and I’m gone! I used to have this problem when I was younger, for I would somehow boast I could fall asleep anywhere. Heck it happened to me on the trip home from Ragnar Del Sol, where one of my teammates actually caught me asleep on the way back, mouth open and all! (you got to go to my Facebook page to see that!
Over the last few years, I have chronicled how people and sleep problems can definitely lead to a massive wave of health problems. First of all, without proper rest, our bodies will have trouble recovering from the previous day’s goings and happenings. We need that down time to regenerate the energy in our body and utilize our body stores properly. Plus, good rest keeps us from relying too heavily on high caffeine products, which can seriously dehydrate us if we take too much of it. And let’s not forget how bad soda and energy drinks are for our body in general when we started drinking that legalized acid! Now of course, I have been kind of embracing far too many of these eye opening procedures. While coffee is still considered good for us, it seems like somedays I need way more than my standard 20 ounces or so, which for most people, is way too much! Losing sleep will certainly make you groggy and moody, which is something I also ran into during my work days. I hated the idea of getting up early, and usually pushed it pretty close when it came to going to work with my father. I know my waistline growing had a lot to do with this laziness, partly because instead of getting up earlier and making a healthier breakfast, I frequented the many fast food joints near my house. Anyway, what I am leading up to is this….bad sleep often times means to a bigger waistline. And now science has given us some indirect reasons. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/feb/29/lack-of-sleep-alters-brain-chemicals-to-bring-on-cannabis-style-munchies
Now the University of Chicago conducted a sleep deprivation study that was trying to find some more links in the low sleep, high obesity problem. For years, scientists have been studying the links between these two traits, and the answer seems to come from body imbalances. Two substances in particular, ghrelin and leptin, have been linked to this problem for some time. Ghrelin is a hormone that can boost our appetite while leptin is a hormone that signals to the brain when the stomach is full. Of course, poor sleep patterns have been linked to high ghrelin levels and low leptin levels, which can be an issue for anyone when trying to control your appetite. During the course of this study, two groups of people had very controlled sleep patterns, one that nearly got a full night of rest and the other getting a little over four hours for four straight days. After four days, people were offered the choice to eat some snacks, and predictably, the people that were sleep deprived seemed to eat the high caloric, higher fat foods that were made available. In most instances, the sleep deprived group was averaging at least 300 calories more! Now here is the interesting part to this study…the researchers also discovered some heightened chemical imbalances. Now their are a set of chemicals in our body that are known as endocannabinoids which reside in our bodies. One in particular—2-AG—was especially noticed in having higher levels. Now why is this significant? Well, that just happens to be the endocannabinoid that heightens our pleasure reactions when we eat. Cannabis is especially a trigger for this particular endocannabinoid, for it is a central factor in giving us the incentive to start binge eating, which we lovingly call “getting the munchies,” even when we are not hungry. Now according to the study, the big difference between the two sleep groups was the issue of urges. In the sleep group, people usually had a desire for food in the middle of the day, which would be a perfect time to engage in lunch…like a normal person. But here’s what happened in the sleep deprived group. People started getting urges around two p.m., and these urges would last until nine p.m., in spite of the fact the people were eating dinner before that and at the same time each night.
Now I can kind of correlate this research through my own personal life, for my main eating time the day was always after two o’clock. When the work day was over, I would often times get something to eat, meaning I would have a late lunch or worse yet, an early dinner where I had supplemented my hunger with a whole bag of Doritos or something earlier. Now, this doesn’t have a mere negative connotation as well. During all the Ragnars I have done in the past, my eating habits were pretty crazy. Of course, this was always in the name of keeping my glycogen stores up and staying active, but this probably explains a lot for me when I would start pigging out on certain foods. One year, Jon and Christa brought these exceptional tofu snacks that had the right amount of spice and salt. I couldn’t control myself, and it took Jon and Christa to remind me it was their food for me to stop. But I had that feeling, like I didn’t want to stop. It did happen to me at this year’s Ragnar Del Sol as well, where I went to town on the PHOD bars I had with me as well as the salty pretzels I brought along with me. Truthfully, when I saw this article, it kind of explained a lot to me about the poor eating habits at my job. Let’s just say, the vending machine people are making a killing with the junk food and the energy drinks, and that is mainly on Sundays and Mondays, the days where we are all starting feel worn out and tired. Of course, some people just naturally eat a lot more food, but it is definitely the type of food that will allow me to see who might be more sleep deprived than the others. Perhaps this is why I have struggled with my eating on the weekends, for I already have a natural tendency to binge eat deeply engraved in my mind….lack of sleep just seem to aid in that issue.
Now of course, all these problems I have can be fixed with some new routines, which is something I need to start doing once again. But with the summer months fast approaching, this means I will be running a little later than normal…which of course said physical activity can actually keep you awake (provided I get my good for nothing butt back on the paths). Either way, I have to do something to fix this issue of mine. Maybe I should go on a camping trip, which is always a good way to fix the circadian rhythms of my body. Or maybe I should just stop taking naps during the day. That is a pretty darn hard to not do, because first of all, naps are awesome, and second of all, my pups love using me as a pillow and it is good bonding time with them. Aye, why does everything in life have to be difficult!
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Parsons Training is a Tucson leader in fitness and personal wellness training. Every personal trainer with this company designs and implements effective fitness programs for their clients; these programs serve as the foundation for good health, fitness, and wellness. Additional information about Parsons Training is available at http://www.parsonspersonaltraining.com
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.