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Why Getting More Sleep Might Be The One Thing That Could Immediately Change Your Life

Why Getting More Sleep Might Be The One Thing That Could Immediately Change Your Life

Fun fact: A recent study found that working the overnight shift has the same physiological impact on your body as eating an entire sleeve of Oreo cookies.

Working shiftwork is part of every first responder's life. Whether you're working dayshift, nightshift or swing shift, you're more than likely putting your body through stress that most who work regular jobs will never experience or understand.

That said, it's critical to do everything within your power to help your body recover. Not doing so can lead to a host of health issues. Many of these issues I had no idea about until after I was no longer a Police Officer. Had I known just how much damage I was doing to my body by working shiftwork, I would have surely done a better job of taking care of it.

So below I'm going to share with you what I've recently learned about the importance of sleep and recovery. Now when most people think of recovery, they think of recovering from a strenuous physical event. But the reality is, working shiftwork is harder on your body than most workouts people do at the gym every day.  Crazy, right? You wouldn't think it since your muscles aren't sore or fatigued and you're not in any pain or discomfort. However the physiological effect on your body is, in many cases, worse following an overnight shift than an hour of strenuous exercise.

Fact: Lack of sleep has been associated with adverse (negative) effects on blood pressure and cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke. You increase your heart's health by getting 8 hours of sleep.

Tip: Get off your phone, turn the TV off and get to bed. The last thing in your hand before you go to sleep should be a book, not an electronic screen.

Fact: Those who work the midnight shift are at higher risk of developing Cancers such as colon Cancer and breast Cancer.  How? Well research has proven that exposure to light while you sleep reduces a hormone in your body called Melatonin. Studies have also found that Melatonin is what helps regulate your sleep cycle. Research has found that Melatonin can help protect you from certain Cancers as it may suppress the growth of tumors.

Tip: Get blackout shades. You may say and think you "sleep fine" without them. But, guess what? You might "think" you're sleeping fine, but you're in actuality causing potential harm to your body that you can't even see. Blackout shades and a dark room may help boost your Melatonin levels, making for a healthier you. And yes, you can take a Melatonin supplement. But nothing is better than the real thing.

Fact: Sleep deprivation puts undue stress on your body; stress that you may not even be able to see or feel. Stress hormones are generated that you can't see or feel, triggering high blood pressure. And we all know that high blood pressure can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Both can ruin your day.

Tip: I would hear many first responders say "I'll sleep when I'm dead." Well that sounds cool and all, but the reality is sleep deprivation will get you there a hell of a lot quicker. Don't be stupid. Make sleep a priority or your next nap might be your last.

Fact: Inflammation is the basis of "most" diseases. The aforementioned stress hormones created as a result of sleep deprivation have been shown to increase inflammation in the human body. This can lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and much more. Additionally, excessive amounts of stress hormones in the body ages us prematurely.

Tip: A touch of grey is cool and can make a man look "dignified." However, aging at an ultra accelerated rate and looking like Gandolph when you're 40 isn't cool. Do yourself a favor; de-flame your life. Avoid the stress hormones and enjoy being on Earth a bit longer with us.

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Fact: Being well-rested makes you more alert while on the job and, ultimately, safer. Alertness is a fundamental part of being a first responder. A momentary lapse in attention could be deadly in certain situation.

Tip: Getting a "good" 8 hours of sleep is literally critical to your survival; don't take it lightly. It's not just about the hours; it's about getting good, restorative sleep. We've all slept for 10 hours and woken up feeling like ish. Why? Because despite the length of sleep it wasn't deep, restorative sleep. When it comes to sleep, quality is just as important as quantity. 

Fact: Getting a solid 8 hours of "good" sleep can help boost your memory. For first responders especially, short and long-term memory are critical. You may have to remember details of a story a victim just told you 5 minutes ago while also trying to remember something you learned in the academy 5 years ago. 

Tip: To ensure you get a deeper sleep, avoid caffeine 10 hours before bed. Yes, this can be tough for those working the night shift. But with a bit of planning and discipline, I was able to make it happen. The deeper you sleep, the more your brain has the ability to make critical neural connections that help boost your memory.

Fact: The less you sleep, the worse your metabolism gets and the more likely you are to be overweight. That's right. If you feel your pants getting tighter and you need to break out the drill to make another hole in your duty belt, it's most likely more than just what you're eating and the fact that you haven't stepped into a gym since 9th grade PE. 

Tip: Two key hormones, gherlin and leptin, regulate your appetite. When you don't get enough or proper sleep, these hormone levels get out of whack. Get 7-8 hours of "good" sleep at least 6 nights a week if you're serious about not wanting to go shopping for new clothes.

Fact: Napping isn't just for your kids. Research has shown that getting some shut-eye during the day can not only give you a likely needed boost in energy, but also make you more alert and more productive. Some of the most brilliant minds of our time were huge proponents of the mid-day nap; Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Leonardo da Vinci to name a few.

Tip: Studies have found that those who nap during the day (at least an hour) have less stress, better memory and are in an overall better mood. Results were not as favorable for those who napped for less than an hour. So put the phone on airplane mode and close your eyes for 60 mins. You'll be shocked at how this small change can drastically change your life. 

Fact: While you sleep is when your body repairs and restores itself. So for those that work out hard and have a "rest day" built into their schedules to let their bodies heal, the reality is you should be doing this every night with good sleep. Sleep isn't just to help muscle fibers grow and repair. Sleep is when damaged cells throughout your entire body are repaired.

Tip: If you're feeling sore, run-down or maybe feel like you might be coming down with something, getting solid, deep sleep is critical to your healing. Remember, it's not just getting 8 hours of sleep; it's getting 8 hours of good, deep sleep. You want your body to get into REM sleep. This is when your body really restores and heals itself. 

Fact: Human Growth Hormone (HGH), has recently been found to be one of the keys to health and longevity. Also known as Somatropin, HGH regulates body composition, muscle and bone growth and development, heart function, bodily fluids and sugar and fat metabolism. As we age, our HGH level decrease significantly. Research has found that a decline in HGH potentially leads to a host of health issues. Thus boosting your HGH levels, safely and naturally can help in more ways than you can imagine.

Tip: Your body produces the greatest amount of HGH while you sleep. But once again, not just any sleep; deep, restorative sleep. Get your sleep in order and you'll realize significant boosts in HGH. NOTE: Personally, I also supplement with a natural, homeopathic supplement during the day called Somaderm to help naturally boost HGH. A doctor recommended it to me. Since using it (you rub it on twice a day; it takes about 90 days to really kick in) I've noticed incredible differences in my mood, energy and most noticeably my body composition. I literally have less grey hair on my head and in my beard and those stubborn love handles that I couldn't get rid of no matter what I tried are now finally gone. Here's a link for everyone asking about it:

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