January 27, 2021 - wellness

Recharging: It's Not Just For Your Phone

Clint Nardoni, employee wellness coordinator and head trainer 

Warning: 10% Battery Life

We've all experienced the dreaded dead battery, usually just as we're trying to make a quick last call or send one more time-sensitive email. It doesn’t take many of those experiences to instill a habit of charging our phones, laptops, and tablets at the end of each day (maybe even prompting some to invest in a portable charger). While we’re so careful to charge our devices, are we equally as careful to make sure our bodies receive a full recharge at the end of each day?

Sleep is the physiological process responsible for recharging and reinvigorating our bodies—ideally nightly. It’s essential in recovering from the day’s activities and preparing for the next one. While sleep needs vary from person to person, eight hours is the average amount of sleep most adults need to fully recharge. Ironically, the culprit keeping many people from reaching this nightly number is the very thing we never fail to charge: our phones and other electronic devices. (So if you’re reading this article after 10 p.m., shut down your device and go to sleep. You can finish reading in the morning.)

Sleep Is so Much More Than Unconsciousness

Unlike electronics, which are either on or off, biology is never powered off. Sleep is far from unconsciousness. It’s an altered state of consciousness—a barrier to the environment when the mind and organs of the body are focused inward on repair and regeneration.

Scheduled to Finish Charging by 7:00 a.m.

We can learn how the body recharges during sleep by learning what things go wrong when insufficient sleep is obtained. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Cortisol increases causing a chronic stress response, resulting in the body storing more calories as fat.
  • Hunger hormones secrete at a higher level, making it more difficult to resist cravings.
  • Impaired glucose tolerance decreases insulin sensitivity, which can contribute to diabetes.

Update in Progress, Do Not Disconnect From Power

Similar to how smart devices install updates while they’re charging, the brain and body perform biological software and hardware updates while we’re sleeping. One round of physical exercise signals the body to adapt. Adaptation doesn’t occur during a training session. In fact, fatigue impairs performance right after a workout. Instead, adaptation occurs while the body is sleeping. This is the process of building and maintaining muscle, building new capillaries, and creating more mitochondria (which help provide energy) in the muscle fibers.

At the same time, the brain is hard at work sorting and cataloging the events of the day. Memories are sorted into long-term storage or discarded. The mind works on solving problems (which is why a good night’s sleep can often lead to a breakthrough upon waking). New neurons are formed while unused neurons are deconstructed.

Through sleep, all the software updates are synced to the hardware in our brain. And the hardware is upgraded nightly to handle the new code. Sleep is a critical element needed to maintain cognitive function in later stages of life, as well as essential in mastering new skills and information.

Silent Mode

Your attention is today’s commodity. The world is bombarding you with content, insisting you consume with urgency. If you’re going to commit to a full recharge, making sleep a priority must be intentional. There are several ways to prioritize it. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Set a specific bedtime. Make sure it gives you an adequate amount of sleep before your alarm goes off in the morning.
  • Turn off screens 90 minutes before bed. This helps reduce blue light from phones, tablets, laptops, and TVs. There are even advantages to just 30 minutes of no screen time before bed.
  • Replace screen time with other activities. Unwind with a book or a mindfulness exercise like writing or meditation. While you’re doing this, turn down the lights and consider hanging blackout curtains.
  • Sleep at the right temperature. Be mindful of what temperature gives you the best sleep. Many people benefit from sleeping in cooler temps.

Just like your favorite smart device, you need a nightly update and recharge. And sleep is the gift biology has provided us to facilitate that process. A commitment to sleep is a commitment to your health and wellness.

About Clint Nardoni

Clint is the head trainer and wellness coordinator at Malouf. An experienced personal trainer, Nardoni is a functional fitness instructor and nutritional advisor. He specializes in teaching functional skills such as sprinting, distance running, weightlifting, and swimming.