Q: About six months ago I got a promotion at work, but it has increased my stress significantly. I’m constantly waking up in the middle of the night with things on my mind and then can’t sleep. I feel weaker in the gym and am always tired. Any advice other than quitting my job?
A: Male or female, young or old, stressed or not—no matter the circumstance, you require sleep. It is a function of your biology and has no bearing on your force of will or constitution. Insufficient sleep throws virtually every system in your body totally out of whack, which is most easily evidenced by your endocrine system. Glucocorticoids shoot through the roof, insulin goes sky high, and leptin elevates as well. Meanwhile, your androgens, especially testosterone, tank. Suffice it to say that it basically puts your body on DEFCON 4.
In our ancestral environment of evolutionary adaptability, sleep was pretty much available when we wanted it for as long as we wanted. It was only a rare occasion when we would be deprived of sleep and only under acute stressors for short, punctuated periods of time—such as a late-night village raid or when a predator stepped into camp. Because of that, we evolved to have a mechanism that rapidly mobilizes energy on short notice. Cortisol and insulin shoot up to awaken us while mobilizing chemical energy for sudden and dramatic expenditure so we can run and/or fight for our lives immediately after waking. Trouble is, we rarely have such need for the “fight or flight” response anymore.
If you are not sleeping deeply, unperturbed, and then during the day need tons of caffeine to feel awake, you have a major problem. Unless you can learn to destress with hypnosis or meditation, you would be well advised to do whatever’s necessary to rearrange your life circumstances, because you are headed for a major catastrophe. A single night of insufficient sleep can put a person into a prediabetic state upon waking. That’s serious.
Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a host of truly fatal chronic disorders from diabetes to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and can even exacerbate or stimulate cancer. Worse yet (for bodybuilders!), it creates a catabolic environment that degrades muscle tissue and increases bodyfat storage—exactly what you don’t want.
Along with investigating self-hypnosis or daily meditation to reduce your stress, you can also gain deeper sleep with the use of certain herbs and supplements. When I’m training hard and need full recuperation, I use MHP Cyclin-GF, which contains 5-hydroxytryptophan, valerian root and other compounds that promote deep REM sleep—which is when your body is most anabolic. In addition, it includes ZMA, which is known to promote muscle-building sleep, and it gives you some real Technicolor dreams. If you want to get the most out of your training, you need sleep. Get the most out of your sleep with Cyclin-GF.
Editor’s note: Ben White won his first IFBB professional bodybuilding contest, the Tampa Pro, in 2010. He is also a champion powerlifter and frequently competes in the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder contest at the Olympia. His best competition bench press is 711 pounds. He is an MPH athlete, www.MHPStong.com. IM