Basic Lifestyle Guideline 2 – The Earth spins, and the Sun and Moon correlate with our energy patterns; we need Sun exposure, we sleep with the Moon.
This guideline encompasses many things which can impact your quality of life and how you feel on a day to day basis, in the modern age we are often at complete odds or trying to battle our natural peaks and troughs in energy. We have two main forms of energy within our body which at different times of the day define how we feel and what we should ideally be doing.
Our sympathetic energy is largely prevalent in the morning after waking and can be best described as being most prominent at that point in the day when you feel most alert and sharp. Our sympathetic energy system should be triggered by the sun in the morning and is largely to do with the release of Cortisol into our bodies.
Our parasympathetic energy is our sleep energy and basically our bodies signalling system to tell us to get to sleep and recover, it is at it’s most prominent at 3am in the morning when we should be fast asleep. Our parasympathetic system triggers the release of melatonin into our bodies (an anti-oxidant) which is our sleep regulating hormone.
Within our day to day lives many of us end up acting against these natural energies with some of the following:
Most commonly we apply too much stress to our systems restricting our ability to enter into a parasympathetic state and thereby enable us to relax and recover as we need to. If we apply to much stress to our system the quality of our sleep deteriorates which in turn leads onto the next issue…
Reliance upon stimulants
What we are talking about here is coffee or any drink containing caffeine. If you aren’t in a position to speak to another human until you have consumed a litre of caffeine something is off here. Caffeine is basically supplementing our inability to get into a sympathetic or alert state of being where we are able to function. Further to this folks rely on these stimulants late into the day fighting the parasympathetic energy system sending us signals to sleep and thereby affecting their ability to have quality sleep and end up going to bed ‘wired and tired.’ This leads into the last problem…
8.5 hours uninterrupted sleep per night is the ideal amount on average for us although age does affect this slightly. A study by the UK Sleep Council in 2013 stated that only 7% of us are getting 8+ hours of sleep per night with nearly a third of us getting only 5-6 hours sleep a night. Quite simply we need sleep to recover from stress, especially if we are exercising regularly and with some intensity.
What can you do? Some simple fixes to help improve the above:
1. Listen to your body more when it comes to stress. Don’t battle on through. If you want to keep exercising that is awesome but when that bucket of stress is full make this exercise restorative which means get out in the Sun, walk, hike, enjoy nature and the outdoors, don’t apply more stress to the system.
2. I LOVE COFFEE. I am the first to admit this but I make sure that coffee isn’t the first thing I do in the morning. Get up and have a morning routine that includes drinking water, movement and then when you want it enjoy some good quality coffee.
3. Stop supplementing with caffeine for workouts especially when you are training late in the day. Caffeine stays active in your system for at least 6 hours so ideally your last caffeinated drink should be no later than 2-3 pm. If you want a drink in the evening drink a non caffeinated fruit or herbal tea. Avoid decaffeinated drinks. And just don’t drink diet soda at all….
4. Drawing upon what we spoke about last week allow your body and mind to shut down and get ready for bed. Disconnect from anything that will apply stress to your system and keep you in a sympathetic state (work, online computer games) 90-120 minutes before you go to bed. Establish a nigh time routine and stick to this whenever you can.
The reason we want to improve this energy balance is pretty simple, doing this will enable us to respond better to stress and recover from it. Similarly to the old adage of you ‘can’t out train a bad diet.’ You can’t continually improve and function optimally both in the gym and life in general if you don’t give your body the chance to recover.