“Optimal sleep is the most anabolic thing you can do for your body.” Dr. Kirk Parsley, MD
Last week I wrote a blog post about some blood work that I had recently had drawn. I was shocked to see how I was trending in a very unhealthy direction internally. I was feeling poorly for a while but I just pushed through the fatigue because work had to be completed and we had a business to run. The realization that something was wrong came to me while I was teaching in Boston over the summer.
The evening after I taught at CrossFit Reebok One, I decided to go on a run on the Charles River. I enjoy running around new places as a way of seeing the sights and it’s typically a very stress-relieving activity for me. As I ran back toward my hotel I passed two guys and a girl walking a dog. I ran around them and as I passed them one of the guys yelled at me “Alright, you can do it man!” I immediately stopped, turned around and said “Are you fucking mocking me you skinny hipster?” He looked completely surprised and said “No, it’s a great night for a run I was just encouraging you.” I didn’t say anything after that, I just turned around and continued my run back to my hotel.
When I got back to my hotel I sat there and tried to figure out what was wrong with me. I literally just tried to fight a small group of hipsters walking their dog while engaged in an activity that was supposed to be stress-relieving. I’m not a violent person and for me to be so short tempered from a misconstrued comment was just not me. I had turned into an asshole but I guess sometimes it takes a near fight with a hipster to figure that out.
Two things needed to change: Stress management and more/better sleep.
When I ran my blood tests I initially decided I would change only 1 or 2 things to gauge the effect on my overall retest. As previously noted in last week’s blog, dramatic decreases in testosterone and increases in HbA1c as well as HS-CRP can be directly attributed to stress and sleep deprivation.
My plan was to force myself to sleep 7.5-8.5 hours every night. I also added in 3 minutes of mindfulness meditation everyday. This was really for stress management and to help keep my mind clear in both my personal and business life.
Within 3 weeks I noticed a huge difference. First, when I woke in the morning I actually felt rested and damn near jumped out of bed, even if it was 4:30 in the morning. My strength started to steadily increase and I was recovering twice as fast as than previously between training sessions. My productivity increased significantly with business and content creation. Most importantly, I wasn’t an asshole anymore. I didn’t have a short temper with my family and I hadn’t tried to fight anyone out walking their dog!
When looking at the changes I made, it’s pretty cool to see the difference. Here’s a partial breakdown of the poor biomarkers compared to where they are now.
July 2015 October 2015
Testosterone- 421 Testosterone- 576
HbA1c- 5.7 HbA1c- 5.4
HS-CRP- 2.6 HS-CRP- 0.5
From a performance standpoint, the most dramatic change is the over 150 point increase in my testosterone levels. That’s a huge jump just by increasing my sleep and working on mindfulness meditation 3 minutes per day. I would say sleep was the biggest reason that number increased as much as it did.
It’s crazy to think that something so simple like sleep can have such a dramatic effect on one of your most important performance hormones. It seems like common sense and it’s a really enjoyable activity as well. Why is it that people neglect sleep? The most common reason is being too busy or having too much work to do.
Like many of us I’ve been there, waking at 430am then working to 11pm and thinking I can just adapt and push through. I was wrong and the worst part is that you’re actually making yourself less athletic and productive by neglecting sleep.
Here’s my challenge for you: Try and get 8 hours of sleep for a solid week straight. If you haven’t been sleeping much you will be shocked at how amazing you feel.
In some cases it takes seeing the bad data to really get us motivated. I know it was like that for me; I had to get some pretty significant blood panel work before it really motivated me to make some much needed changes. If you’re not tracking your blood markers and you’re trying to live a high performance and pain-free life you’re missing a massive opportunity. You should be testing yourself at a minimum twice a year and really more like 3-4 times per year to accurately track your internal functionality.
-Dr. Danny, PT, DPT
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention, and sometimes other random thoughts.