The Relationship Between Sleep, Diet, and Exercise

We talk with Examine.com writer Brady Holmer about how sleep, diet, and exercise all impact one another and ultimately play a key role in our health and performance.

FTL Pod with Brady Holmer

Okay, okay, endurance athletes get the point. They train hard, want to be able to ride and run at their best, and know they need sleep. That message has been hammered home by more than a few podcasts and articles on the subject. So, enough already—what else is there to talk about?  

Don’t worry, this isn’t another one of those episodes.  

Instead, we talk about how sleep, diet, and exercise all relate to one another. There’s plenty of evidence that what you eat can have an impact on your sleep. But it goes both ways: The quality of your sleep impacts what you choose to eat. It can be a vicious cycle where poor sleep feeds into poor diet, which in turn impacts sleep. Ultimately, both have an effect on your health and your exercise performance.  

Here to discuss this interplay with us is Brady Holmer, a writer for Examine.com who is researching the impacts of sleep on health. He’ll dive into what we mean by “sleep quality,” how diet affects our sleep cycles, and how poor-quality sleep can contribute to chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.  

What is shocking in his research is how a single night of poor sleep can cause a measurable decrease in insulin sensitivity and an increase in both blood pressure and the inflammatory markers related to heart disease. Fortunately for those of us who exercise regularly, a good workout or interval session seems to prevent most of the effects of one bad night of sleep. Holmer explains all of that to us, and more. 

So, lie down, close your eyes, and let’s make you fast! 

References

​Baranwal, N., Yu, P. K., & Siegel, N. S. (2023). Sleep physiology, pathophysiology, and sleep hygiene. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 77, 59–69. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2023.02.005 

​Grandner, M. A. (2017). Sleep, Health, and Society. Sleep Medicine Clinics, 12(1), 1–22. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsmc.2016.10.012 

​Habay, J., Uylenbroeck, R., Droogenbroeck, R. V., Wachter, J. D., Proost, M., Tassignon, B., … Roelands, B. (2023). Interindividual Variability in Mental Fatigue-Related Impairments in Endurance Performance: A Systematic Review and Multiple Meta-regression. Sports Medicine – Open, 9(1), 14. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-023-00559-7 

​Helder, T. V., & Radomski, M. W. (1989). Sleep Deprivation and the Effect on Exercise Performance. Sports Medicine, 7(4), 235–247. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-198907040-00002 

​Holmer, B. J., Lapierre, S. S., Jake-Schoffman, D. E., & Christou, D. D. (2021). Effects of sleep deprivation on endothelial function in adult humans: a systematic review. GeroScience, 43(1), 137–158. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s11357-020-00312-y 

​Khan, M. S., & Aouad, R. (2022). The Effects of Insomnia and Sleep Loss on Cardiovascular Disease. Sleep Medicine Clinics, 17(2), 193–203. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsmc.2022.02.008 

​Meeusen, R., Cutsem, J. V., & Roelands, B. (2021). Endurance exercise‐induced and mental fatigue and the brain. Experimental Physiology, 106(12), 2294–2298. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1113/ep088186 

​Meeusen, R., & Roelands, B. (2018). Fatigue: Is it all neurochemistry? European Journal of Sport Science, 18(1), 37–46. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2017.1296890 

​Meeusen, R., & Watson, P. (2007). Amino Acids and the Brain: Do They Play a Role in “Central Fatigue”? International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 17(s1), S37–S46. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.17.s1.s37 

​Pageaux, B., Marcora, S. M., & Lepers, R. (2013). Prolonged Mental Exertion Does Not Alter Neuromuscular Function of the Knee Extensors. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 45(12), 2254–2264. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e31829b504a 

​Proost, M., Habay, J., Wachter, J. D., Pauw, K. D., Rattray, B., Meeusen, R., … Cutsem, J. V. (2022). How to Tackle Mental Fatigue: A Systematic Review of Potential Countermeasures and Their Underlying Mechanisms. Sports Medicine, 52(9), 2129–2158. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-022-01678-z 

​Scholler, V., Groslambert, A., Pirlot, T., & Grappe, F. (2023). Opposite effects of a time-trial and endurance cycling exercise on the neural efficiency of competitive cyclists. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 1–10. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-023-05216-1 

​St-Onge, M.-P., & Zuraikat, F. M. (2019). Reciprocal Roles of Sleep and Diet in Cardiovascular Health: a Review of Recent Evidence and a Potential Mechanism. Current Atherosclerosis Reports, 21(3), 11. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s11883-019-0772-z 

Episode Transcript

Griffin McMath  00:04

Hello and welcome to Fast Talk, your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host Griffin McMath here with Coach Connor.

Okay, okay, endurance athletes get the point a train hard, want to be able to ride and run at their best and know that they need sleep. That message has been hammered home by more than a few podcasts and articles on the subject. So enough already, what else is there to talk about?

Don’t worry, this isn’t another one of those episodes. Instead today we’re going to talk about how sleep, diet and exercise all relate to each other. There’s plenty of evidence that what you eat can have an impact on your sleep, but it actually goes both ways. The quality of your sleep impacts what you choose to eat. It can be a vicious cycle where poor sleep feeds into poor diet, which in turn impacts sleep. Ultimately, both have an impact on your health and your exercise performance.

Here to discuss this interplay with us is Brady Holmer, a writer for Examined.com. He’s researching the impacts of sleep on health, he’ll dive into what we mean by sleep quality, how diet affects our sleep cycles, and how poor quality sleep can contribute to chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. What’s been shocking about his research is how a single night of poor sleep can cause a measurable decrease in insulin sensitivity and an increase in both blood pressure and the inflammatory markers related to heart disease. Fortunately, for those of us who exercise regularly a good workout or interval sessions seem to prevent most of the effects of a single night of bad sleep, Holmer explains it all to us. So lie down, close your eyes. Tune in and let’s make you fast.

Chris Case  01:43

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Trevor Connor  02:50

Well, welcome, Brady, great to have you on the show. I really appreciate that you’ve reached out to us. I think we’ve got some exciting things to talk about today. Yeah, thank

Brady Holmer  02:58

you for having me on, Trevor, it’s rare that you get to go on a podcast that you’re a regular listener of and in my case, you know, I’ve listened to several episodes of fast talker and enjoyed a lot. So this is definitely a treat for me. Well,

Trevor Connor  03:10

I really appreciate that really appreciate you listening. And I’m actually going to throw that back at you. So you work@examined.com This is a source that puts out really good information. They’re not bias, they aren’t trying to promote particular products or particular investors. They’re really just trying to get good information out there. So kind of fun that you’re part of examined.com. And just wanted to ask you about that before we dive into talking about sleep is tell us a little bit about examined.com and your mission.

Brady Holmer  03:41

Sure I’ve been working full time for examined for about a year and a half now. And essentially what we do at examine who we are, we use the latest evidence to tell you what works and what doesn’t. So examine started off as mainly dedicated to telling people about supplements, you know, just to supplement work for enhancing your performance or building strength or you know, improving your brain health or brain function. And then since you know, it’s inception over, you know, 10 years ago when I wasn’t involved, they’ve really expanded so now we cover diet, exercise interventions, you name it, if it’s something that has the potential to improve your health, we’ve probably covered it on the website. And we do that by essentially constantly updating the information on the site. So we have a fairly small research team but you know, very comprehensive people spanning multiple domains. We’re just always doing research on the latest supplements the latest diet intervention trials, just fasting work and just writing about it on our site, summarizing it for users telling you the main takeaways what’s important to know and then I’ll always updating our database on on supplements so that people can make informed decisions because there’s a lot of misinformation out there disinformation. I know those two things mean different things, but I’m not quite sure the definition of each but there’s a lot of just Some bad information out there about supplements and conflicting info. And so what we do at examine is try to help people sift through that and just say, you know, give you the black and white like, does this work, does it not? Here’s the latest evidence. And then people can make informed decisions about whether to use something whether to try something or not.

Trevor Connor  05:16

What I actually really love, I subscribe, and you can customize your newsletter, I subscribed to your newsletter, you take all the current research that’s come out, and you summarize it and go here. Here’s the key points from the research, which really helps me because I’ll read your summaries and then pick which research actually want to dive into and read based off of that. And it’s been enormously helpful.

Brady Holmer  05:36

Yeah, that’s a new thing that we just added, users have the ability to say, Oh, I just want to receive the latest study summaries on cardiovascular health and say, muscle gain and exercise. So then every week or your chosen preference for you know, how frequently you receive those, you’ll get the latest studies that we summarized on those topics. And we do it in a really simple manner, you know, not to go too in depth, but we basically just say, what was studied, who was studied, how was it studied, you know, some of the breach study methods, what were the results, and then maybe a few key takeaways. So it’s very simple, you can read it in a minute or two, but you’re going to know, you know, the key takeaway information without reading the 20 Plus pages of the scientific article that most people are not willing to do. Nor should they have to, I’ve got to say,

Griffin McMath  06:20

too, I’m a naturopathic doctor, so supplements and vitamins, nutrients, botanical medicine, those are all a huge part of our education and training in the tool that we use with patients. And so I’ve really loved over the years watching examine, grow as a company, you know, how they display information as far as best practices for health literacy, but just like fast talk, tries to do the deep work for research and provide it in more accessible manner, I think examined does too and it just is a really good job of acknowledging, you know, this is an area of Vedic urban and honoring that without, you know, dismissing it because of traditional medicine and and also providing research snapshots. So it’s, it’s really neat to be able to talk to you and and talk to someone who dives into this every day. And

Trevor Connor  07:03

I’m actually going to answer your question, because when I was putting together my presentation, I was using misinformation and disinformation interchangeably. And I went, they probably don’t mean the same thing. I should look this up and discovered they do have very different definitions. A disinformation is information that’s put out and the people putting it out know that it is false. misinformation is when somebody puts out information that is false, but they believe it’s true. I think

Brady Holmer  07:28

it’s a good distinction. And I guess regarding nutrition, I think there’s probably more misinformation but I don’t know, certainly some disinformation out there, I guess. I mean, I think there are a lot of people maybe promoting supplements or so called snake oil, who know maybe that their product doesn’t work. So that’s kind of interesting, maybe an interesting philosophical discussion that we don’t have to get into. But

Trevor Connor  07:49

that’s, that’s how I started my presentation. I said, if this was a presentation on politics, we’d be talking all about disinformation. But in the exercise and nutrition world, there’s a lot of misinformation there isn’t that much information. Yeah, I agree. But let’s get to our topic, we’re going to talk about sleep. And as we discussed, before we started recording here, we’re not going to do that same old, boring episode of your athletes sleep is your best recovery. So get lots and lots of sleep. We’ve actually done an episode on that, and I’ll put the link to it in our show notes. But I think that has been beat to death. And I think everybody understands that. So we’re gonna go a bit of a different direction here and talk about this relationship between sleep, diet, health and performance, how all four of these things interrelate. Trevor,

Griffin McMath  08:42

are you saying? Don’t sleep on this episode?

Trevor Connor  08:46

Of Please don’t. Let’s start with give us the definition of what we mean by good quality and poor quality sleep. Yeah. So

Brady Holmer  08:56

I would say there are kind of two ways that we could define good slash poor quality sleep. So traditionally, good sleep would be just defined as you’re getting a sufficient quantity of sleep every night, which for most people, and you know, this doesn’t apply, obviously, to everyone. But for most people, that’s going to be somewhere between six and like nine hours per night. That’s obviously a wide range, but there’s high inter individual variability and how much sleep we need. So you get enough sleep for your personal phenotype, whatever you want to call it, that’s good sleep quality, or good sleep quantity. If you get below that, that’s poor sleep. But as we just discussed, you know, now everyone kind of knows like getting enough sleep is important. And so good sleep quality is kind of being not redefined. But there are some additional definitions that we can use to define whether you’re getting a good quality sleep. So I think that when we say good sleep quality, it means you know, are you getting the proper amount of these different sleep stages, which again, isn’t completely spelled out? We’re well defined, but spending the right amount of time in deep sleep and REM sleep and slow wave sleep and things like that, getting to sleep and making sure you’re not awakening too many times during the night that can be indicative of a poor sleep quality, and then waking up well rested. That’s kind of a subjective way to assess whether you slept well enough, but having a good sleep quality. And I think one of the more important or most important aspects that the research is kind of uncovering is that having a consistent sleep schedule is probably one of the best markers or ways to improve your sleep quality. And what that means is essentially, going to bed and waking up at relatively the same time every day. Of course, you know, you can’t make yourself fall asleep at 10pm Make yourself wake up at 6am You can obviously set an alarm to determine when you wake up, but when you fall asleep is kind of determined by what’s your body you know when it wants you to fall asleep. But getting into bed at the same time of day and trying to wake up around the same time the next day is super important for regulating circadian rhythms. And regarding sleep quality, I think that’s definitely something that people should focus on. Especially given like some of the current research around that.

Trevor Connor  11:05

I’m really glad that you did bring up quality isn’t just about how much sleep you’re getting. But the different stages of sleep. Something that was a real eye opener for me was I don’t drink very often. And when I do drink, even if I get a full night asleep, hours wise, a wake up in the morning and just feel like I didn’t sleep at all. So when I finally got a whoop strap and the first time I had alcohol after wearing the whoop strap. It was just shocking to look at the the sleep cycles. The next day, it was all light sleep, I had no REM sleep, no deep sleep.

Griffin McMath  11:37

And also, after drinking alcohol, a lot of people will fall asleep just from the depressant qualities right away. They don’t necessarily fall into a good enough sleep as we’re talking about quality, but then they’ll wake up within a couple of hours after that, you know, especially with type of drink that blood glucose spike, right and so then it’s going to be hard to fall back asleep. So you’ve interrupted sleep on top of that.

Brady Holmer  11:56

Yeah, a lot of people will use alcohol and things like you know, cannabis, whether that’s like THC or CBD to like fall asleep, and they do help you fall asleep quicker. I think there’s good evidence to support that. But they certainly disrupt sleep quality, I think most people, if you have like a wearable, you can definitely see that. Yep.

Trevor Connor  12:15

So let’s start by talking about this relationship between sleep and diet because I was reading some of the research that you recommended. And I found this really fascinating that it’s a back and forth, sleep can impact your diet and diet can impact your sleep. And that’s actually the one that I found really interesting is the fact that there is definitely associations of people who are short sleepers tend not to eat as well, they tend to eat more simple carbohydrates, less fiber, more saturated fats. But every study that I read that talked about this kind of raise the question of well, this is an association. So is it the poor sleep that’s causing people to eat badly? Or is it that the fact that they’re eating badly is causing them not to sleep as well? So it was very interested in your take on this?

Brady Holmer  13:02

Yeah, I think it’s, it’s impossible to say whether it’s one or the other. And I think both definitely come into play, as you mentioned, you know, the problem with association studies is that you never really know. So is it like you said, is it the poor sleep leading to these people to make poor dietary choices? Or are their poor dietary choices leading to poor sleep or, you know, the alternative is it just this kind of healthy or unhealthy user bias, you know, people who sleep less probably may not take the time to care about their health and other areas of life. So they don’t really focus on eating a high quality diet, and they eat more processed foods and higher sugar and things like that. So it can be all of those. And again, that’s why we can’t conclude much from cross sectional or just observational studies. But interestingly, there’s pretty consistent evidence that if you deprive people of sleep, so this is like experimentally, you shorten people’s sleep, say, from eight hours, and then they only get five hours of sleep per night for maybe a week or something like that. This tends to cause people to eat more, causes them to eat more kind of refined foods or refined carbohydrates, more sugar, higher fat foods, and snack more. So it’s kind of indicating that poor sleep may dysregulate your appetite and the neuro psychological effects of sleep. That’s not necessarily my research area, but I was doing some reading recently on this and it seems that there are kind of two reasons why that might happen. Does it dis regulate your kind of appetite regulating hormones like leptin and ghrelin? It doesn’t seem to be that it actually seems that if you don’t get a lot of sleep, you kind of seek more of this reward value in food again, I won’t speak too much to that because it’s not my area, but it seems that like if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re seeking a reward value and food so you’re gonna crave more fatty sugary, like high energy density foods, which is pretty interesting,

Griffin McMath  14:53

and then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy at that point. It’s a vicious cycle right once you have that train and it just feels an and feeds itself. And then when people do that you talked about quantity of food. So we’re talking not only portion control, but even binge behavior, right. And so then people get food coma, which we know postprandial somnolence. That’s the scientific term for it. And we know this because of the high fats, those the high amount of carbs, and people think it’s a good thing. You’re like, oh, well, now I can go sleep. Now I can get an ABS like, no, that’s actually not what’s happening there. So I think that’s such an interesting point, you talk about sleep deprivation, leading to poor dietary choices. And those poor dietary choices lead to a lack of or a poor quality of sleep. But for some people, there might be a chicken or egg situation there too.

Trevor Connor  15:43

Yeah, definitely another factor that I found really interesting. So there was a study from 2020, called reciprocal roles of sleep and diet and cardiovascular health. One of the things they raised as a mechanism was the the microbiome that they saw in short sleepers, less diversity in their their microbiome and a movement towards bacteria. That’s more the type you don’t want to have. And I’ve seen other research that shows that the bacteria in our gut can actually released signalers that influence our diet, because they want us to eat the foods that they want to eat. And so when you have a bad microflora composition, you tend to crave more simple sugars, saturated fats, things like that, though they do say in this study, they’re not certain if the sleep is directly impacting the microbiome or if the sleeps impact in diet, and then that diets impacting the microbiome. But as you said, Griffin, it becomes a vicious cycle.

Brady Holmer  16:36

Yeah, it’s always it’s always hard to tell, especially with the microbiome research and stuff. And you know, I haven’t read read a ton about that. But yeah, definitely what you eat impacts your microbiome, and then I’m sure you know, as we continue to talk about this, like cyclical relationship, I’m sure that there’s a role of the gut microbiome and moderate modulating people sleep. So you know, if you feed your microbiome with these processed foods, it’s probably not going to lead to the ideal micro environment that’s going to promote healthy sleep. And yeah, all these things really just kind of compound on one another. And when you look at it from that aspect, I think it’s easy to see kind of how certain people can get into these very precarious like situations regarding their health, whether it’s like obesity and metabolic syndrome. I mean, it’s a hard cycle and or a spiral to get out of.

Trevor Connor  17:22

So let’s flip this around, does diet have an impact on sleep?

Brady Holmer  17:26

It certainly does. And I think there is perhaps a bit more evidence that certain foods and certain dietary patterns can promote healthy sleep. Again, some of this comes from those, those pesky association studies. So we can’t tell whether people who eat a healthy diet are sleeping well, because of their diet, or perhaps just because they’re healthier overall. Or maybe it’s their sleep is promoting a healthy diet. But nonetheless, people who eat food or dietary patterns similar to say, like the Mediterranean diet, so you know, not necessarily totally plant based, that contain some some meat and dairy and things like that. But they contain lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, things like that, they tend to have healthier sleep patterns. And this could be probably hypothesized to be due to some of these sleep promoting like nutrients in foods. And so tryptophan is something that we traditionally attribute, at least those of us who partake in thanksgiving to Turkey, you know, that’s why we’re so tired after eating our big Thanksgiving meals, because all the tryptophan in the turkey will trip the fans a precursor to melatonin, which is the quote unquote, sleep hormone though it has effects that are more than just promoting sleep. But Japan can be found in things like beef, lamb, poultry, dairy, nuts, seeds, whole grains, so things that are kind of present in high quantities and in the Mediterranean diet. It’s also very high in vitamins and minerals and things like that. So eating some of these foods that are going to promote the synthesis of melatonin, it kind of makes sense when you think that it might actually be able to benefit sleep or in some way promote sleep. I think there are other pathways through which beneficial diet could help sleep and you know, reducing inflammation, overall, just you know, maybe helping you maintain a healthy body weight. If that’s something the diet does. All of those things are going to help sleep promoting beneficial cardiovascular health. So definitely eating we could argue all day about what a good diet is, but you know, a balanced diet that contains you know, adequate protein and carbohydrates and fats and healthy fats and things like that is going to promote good sleep. I think there’s certainly a lot of evidence to support that. And something interesting, though, that we could probably talk about as well, doesn’t just maybe relate to the quality of the food, but there’s a lot of evidence now on the timing and like the size of your meal in relation to sleep and how that can impact sleep. So I don’t know if you all want to maybe talk about that for a little bit. Absolutely.

Trevor Connor  19:54

I certainly saw that in the research as well. There was a very interesting study that looked at it Eating food an hour before bedtime, and four hours before bedtime, and then had pretty dramatic impact.

Brady Holmer  20:06

Yeah, I think most kind of experts in this area would would recommend, you know, have your last meal, if it’s going to be like a sizable meal, have it at least three hours before you lay down in bed for the night. I think that if you eat a larger meal three hours before, but then want to have like a pre sleep snack, then that could be totally fine. And maybe it would also be interesting to talk about, like what should be in that pre sleep snack to promote sleep, but eating a huge meal, you know, you’re going to get just the stomach distension, which for some people can be uncomfortable trying to sleep, I’ve certainly experienced that if I eat too close to bedtime, you know, you’re going to get a little bit of sympathetic activation, your body’s going to be trying to digest all of this food, you’re gonna get, you know, depending on the components of the meal, that blood glucose spike and the insulin release. So it’s just not ideal when you’re trying to promote a kind of rest restful phase to kind of flood your body with nutrients and put the demands of digestion on it. So eating a huge meal far away, at least probably three hours before you go to bed is probably certainly beneficial. And obviously avoiding things like caffeine, and probably like too much, you know, sugar or whatever, before bedtime is going to help promote sleep as well. people

Griffin McMath  21:19

have this misconception of well, after I eat, I’m supposed to do the rest and digest, right? Like, oh, this is when it’s supposed to happen. No, that’s a different type of function. And the blood flow in your body needs to be focused there rather than what’s required for sleep, which is a global recovery, right? Not just everything, your body’s full attention going to your GI tract and saying, Well, let’s make use of the nutrients that just you know, we’re bombarded by our system. So this rest and digest needs to be a separate type of rest while you’re still unconscious. And then the sleep that you have at night needs to be truly that unintentional recovery where your body’s not distracted by what you’ve just bombarded with. Yeah, definitely

Brady Holmer  21:58

I think laying down after like eating is probably one of the worst things you can do, you kind of want to do the opposite thing, I think taking like a 10 to 30 minute walk after you eat. And that’s a strategy as well, I think that people can use I’ve used it myself, if you do tend to maybe eat a larger meal, two hours, maybe 90 minutes or fairly close to your bedtime. Go for like a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood before you get into bed. I think that can definitely help just promote a little more digestion rather than going straight from like the dinner table to laying down in your bed, which is not ideal, even if it’s tempting. It is very tempting sometimes indeed. So

Trevor Connor  22:32

you did hint at this. And I will tell you I am one of those people that if I don’t eat something before I go to bed, I’m not going to fall asleep. I cannot fall asleep on an empty stomach. So I’m interested in your take on if you’re one of those people like me, what should you be eating and what shouldn’t you be eating right before you go to bed and you’ve already mentioned one which I agree with is don’t wolf down to simple sugars and the carbohydrate. Yeah,

Brady Holmer  22:54

I’m definitely like you, Trevor. So if I like to go to bed feeling not stuffed, but I definitely want to be satisfied. If I go to bed hungry, my sleep buds very disturbed. I don’t do a lot of prolonged fasting. But one time I did a 24 was more like a 36 hour fast just to kind of see if I could do it. And that night before ending the fast the next morning was definitely one of like the worst nights of sleep I’ve ever had. Because it was just like, I was so hungry. I was thinking about food all night. Like when I did fall asleep. I was probably dreaming about like, what I was gonna eat the next day. So yeah, most and most people would agree, I think that going to bed hungry, at least with the subjective feeling of hunger leads to worse sleep. So I think having a snack even if it’s an hour or 30 minutes before you go to bed isn’t necessarily a problem, make it maybe a lower volume type of foods. So don’t eat like a huge quantity of food. But having like some Greek yogurt with some berries or a protein shake, I think pre sleep protein. Having a snack that’s high in protein before you go to sleep can be good maybe not only for quelling that hunger but also for promoting protein synthesis overnight there have been some very interesting studies to show especially like an athlete’s that protein snack you know 20 To 30 grams before bed can promote overnight protein synthesis. So if your goals are to recover, gain muscle mass that can be an interesting strategy there. So let’s say something higher in protein but it can contain some carbs as well. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as it’s not a pint of ice cream.

Griffin McMath  24:21

We used to recommend patients who are like that they keep a little jar of almonds by their bedside just for you know the nutrients that are specifically in almonds but having that protein right before bed it’s a little snack it does exactly you know Brady we just talked about as far as protein synthesis all your body’s sleeping who doesn’t want to gain muscle mass while you snooze? That sounds like the best athletes perk right there but multitasking Yeah, a little nuts and you know you don’t want to go overboard on nuts but just a little almonds before bed.

Trevor Connor  24:51

Oh, you’re gonna be horrified by this because you brought up the volume. My favorite snack right before I go to bed is scrambling for eggs with spin Majan mushrooms in it. So that’s that’s

Brady Holmer  25:05

that’s pretty low volume. I don’t know four eggs that’s that’s not too much food.

Griffin McMath  25:08

Also one egg doesn’t have a lot of protein in it anyway. So

Trevor Connor  25:12

no it doesn’t true, you should see how much spinach I throw in.

Griffin McMath  25:15

Yeah, the whole plastic carton coverage. You want carton falls down to this much, you know,

Trevor Connor  25:21

you take my frying pan it is I put the spinach in first to cook it for a bit. And it is stacked like half a foot high and spinach

Griffin McMath  25:30

cut. I would love to see your labs sometimes, Trevor, that’s just amazing. Brady, you did talk about something else too, which is the absence of sugar. So it’s not just about what we are choosing, right almonds, protein, things that can be helpful to put us in a restful state. Things that rich and melatonin and magnesium, these different nutrients, even Myo inositol has some really neat research as well right now, but the absence of sugar and we know we know this now that these simple sugars that these processed foods high in sugar contribute to interrupted sleep, poor quality, they contribute to nightmares and night terrors. So I mean, what’s worse than thinking I’m having a little treat before bed, and you’re in a good mood. And then you go to bed and you’re running from a monster and you wake up. And not only do you feel scared out of your mind, but you feel like you need a night of sleep after being on the run in your dreams all night long. So this concept of understanding, okay, if you are someone who likes that little treat at night or something, there are other options that can satisfy cravings in a way that doesn’t start to build on that vicious cycle that we talked about earlier.

Brady Holmer  26:35

Yeah, definitely. It’s interesting how we, you know, we placed dessert at the time closest to our sleep, we should probably just be eating dessert, like in the morning at breakfast, because our insulin sensitivity is highest thing anyway. Right? So maybe we should be promoting breakfast dessert instead of dinner dessert. You heard it here first.

Griffin McMath  26:52

Trevor’s squirming over there.

Trevor Connor  26:53

No. Mirrors, I gotta bring up this story from the other day because you’re gonna laugh at this. But apparently, I woke up a couple mornings ago and said to my girlfriend, apparently very upset that what’s gonna happen to kids? Because they’re canceling Sesame Street.

Griffin McMath  27:09

Do you remember saying this? No. She

Trevor Connor  27:10

asked me at the time. She’s like, Oh, my gosh, are you awake? And I’m like, I’m wide awake. I’m really concerned about this. And then later on, she’s like, do you remember this? And I’m like, nope. One more,

Griffin McMath  27:22

you know, that’s a great little YouTube rabbit hole to go down to the people who record have like cameras up in their house, they get up and do the night walking and the speaking and the fool. Are you one of them?

Trevor Connor  27:33

I don’t know. I

Griffin McMath  27:33

don’t think so. But could be it’s not the spinach doing it to tie that much. No,

Trevor Connor  27:38

it’s not. But I am glad you brought up carbohydrates. One other thing I found really interesting. And the research I’ve read was that eating a low carbohydrate diet increases slow wave sleep. Well, eating a high carbohydrate diet seems to increase REM sleep. Yeah,

Brady Holmer  27:56

I’m not too familiar with the impacts of diet on specific sleep stages. But um, I have, you know, skimmed and kind of read similar things to what you’re finding. So I think there’s could be some evidence to support that different compositions of diets can maybe promote different sleep staging. But yeah, that’s, that’s kind of the first I’ve heard of that. So Trevor,

Griffin McMath  28:15

let’s actually touch on that real quick. For in case people aren’t familiar with those terms. Let’s define REM sleep versus this deep, slow wave sleep. What what’s the difference here?

Trevor Connor  28:27

Yeah, I’m Brady, you’re the expert. Do you want to take this one? Um, yeah,

Brady Holmer  28:30

maybe you can contribute to where I’m maybe lacking in my my definitions of it. But a slow way sleep is just this period of sleep. And this will be a very kind of brief. Again, I’m not a quote unquote sleep expert in terms of the electro physiology of sleep, but um, electrical activity in the brain sort of is deep in restorative is kind of what the activity of described for slow wave sleep, whereas this rapid eye movement, sleep is the time during the night where it’s named, so named rapid eye movement, sleep, because if you were to observe someone’s eyes, they’re closed, obviously. But if they were open, you would see them kind of fluttering back and forth, or vibrating back and forth. And this is kind of the state of sleep where dreams would occur. And

Trevor Connor  29:11

I’m not an expert on this, either. It’s been in bed since I’ve read any of this, but you have these different stages of sleep. So you, you start at a phase where you’re close to me and awake. And then you go into these deeper and deeper stages of sleep. But this slow wave sleep is where your brain is probably at its lowest level of function. And that’s apparently when the the most repair works done in your body. And REM sleep, as you said, that’s when you’re dreaming. That’s when your body’s trying to process everything that it took in during the day. I don’t believe that’s where you store memories, but it is processing everything that your brain has been dealing with over the last 24 hours.

Griffin McMath  29:50

My understanding is when you’re getting drowsy. You know that stage one sleep eventually that falls into a lighter sleep, or a light sleep. So with that stage two Oh, and then you get into stage three, which is that moderate to deep sleep. And then stage four, where is that deepest level, you talked about this already that low frequency, high amplitude, so the delta waves, and then REM is a non slow wave.

Trevor Connor  30:16

And the one thing I do remember from my classes on this that is really interesting is your brain during REM sleep is disconnected from your spinal column. So when you are dreaming, so make sure when you’re dreaming that you don’t start running or take the actions you’re taking in your dreams. So if you see somebody sleepwalking or doing strange things in their sleep, they’re not actually in REM sleep, they’re in one of the other stages.

Griffin McMath  30:40

And that’s, I think it’s the most difficult to wake people up when they’re in slow wave so that you dip back into REM, which you can wake people up and but when you go into the slow wave, deep, deep recovery,

Trevor Connor  30:53

you’re woken up during your your slow wave, like your alarm goes off during that that’s when you wake up and go, Oh, God, I feel like I just got hit by a bus.

Brady Holmer  31:00

Yeah, I, I have always wanted someone to invent this. And if anyone’s listening who has this capacity, but you know, an alarm that is able to kind of derive data from my wearable that can assess my real time sleep staging, as I’m sleeping, and you know, not waking me up in that very deep sleep. Wake me up when I’m in very light sleep. So we need we need an invention like that. And um, maybe some of these newer sleep mattresses have that function but haven’t invested in one of those yet.

Griffin McMath  31:29

I think the aura ring does, yeah, Aura ring measures, awake, Rem light and deep

Trevor Connor  31:35

sleep. And I haven’t seen research on the aura ring, but the whoop in between the Fitbits. And the other devices. Besides the aura ring was the only one that they said was close enough to clinical observation to actually be usable,

Griffin McMath  31:51

well, or rang, this is your chance to send us an aura ring, and we’ll figure it out. Take a look.

Brady Holmer  31:55

I’m wearing one right now. I’ve had it for a few years. There we go.

Trevor Connor  32:01

Burn winter, there is cold. But again, back to conditioning and looking to rev up your training. If you haven’t already, now’s a great time of year to reflect on the past season. Specifically, when it comes to data and recovery to very important metrics in endurance sports, visit fast doc labs and take a look at our pathways on recovery and data analysis. These two in depth guides can help you get the most from your offseason, see more Bastok labs.com/pathways. So let’s shift here. And now we’re going to get more into the health impacts of all this. And I know this is your area of expertise, Brady, this is what you’re researching, looking at the fact that there is definitely a correlation between sleep quality and length, the sleep that you get, and several chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, but they’re also seeing relationships with diabetes and mental performance. So where do we want to start with this conversation? I guess my first question to you would be, is this just an association? Or is there evidence that this is causative, that there is a mechanism here, it’s a little

Brady Holmer  33:18

bit of both. So there’s more, I would say data from these observational studies to support it. But that’s backed up by kind of experimental and mechanistic like evidence. And so from the observational evidence, we can see that short sleep duration, and then these newer measures of sleep quality. So time spent in these various sleep stages, the consistency and the timing of your sleep. So we’re sleep quality, shorter sleep duration, associated with higher risk for cardiovascular disease for diabetes, or obesity for metabolic syndrome. Interestingly, there’s kind of also the association with long sleep duration. So it’s kind of this U shaped curve where if you get much too short sleep or much too long sleep, you’re at a higher risk. The long one has always been interesting to me. And I think that’s kind of a statistical artifact, perhaps. So there may be people who are, you know, if they’re very old or suffering from certain diseases that are sleeping for 910 1112 hours per day. And so I think they kind of confound that association. So I don’t put much stock in saying that, Oh, if you sleep too long every night, you know, if you sleep 10 hours per night, you’re at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, probably not. But I think there’s stronger evidence that short sleep may actually promote those diseases. And so studies you know, if we just look at, say cardiovascular disease, and maybe we can look at each of these individually, but just say, you know, how can we support the association between short sleep and cardiovascular disease? Well, it’s pretty easy to do it experimentally. You just take people and you either have them stay up for 24 to 48 hours at a time, or you restrict their sleep for you know, from four to five hours for several nights in a row. And an abundance of evidence and I covered a lot of this during my time in graduate school. I She wrote a systematic review on kind of all of the evidence linking. These studies are in these studies, linking them to adverse cardiovascular function outcomes. And so when you deprive people of sleep, most measures of cardiovascular function get worse, a measure called endothelial function, which reflects the health of your blood vessels, the ability of your blood vessels to expand to promote blood flow, arterial stiffness, kind of another measure where you know, the stiffer your arteries are, that’s a worse marker for future cardiovascular health. And things like blood pressure, which most people aren’t familiar with, if you deprive people sleep, blood pressure goes up, arterial stiffness goes up endothelial function goes down. So these are kind of direct, you know, they’re short term effects. Of course, they occur within 24 hours to say a week. But in long term, those are also associated with greater cardiovascular disease. So from that, we can kind of say, Yes, chronically not getting enough sleep is going to promote the development of say, heart disease, or atherosclerosis, and things like that. Same thing goes with, say, diabetes, if you deprive people of sleep, and measure their insulin sensitivity the next day, so say you have them eat a meal and measure that their glucose response to that meal, it’s much worse than if they received a full night of sleep almost to the levels of like somebody who has has diabetes. So there are multiple examples of the association’s being backed up by let’s deprive people of sleep and see what happens. And most markers of health get worse when you do that

Griffin McMath  36:28

thing. It’s interesting that you talked about sleep deprivation, or insufficiency versus Sleep Access, I was trying to remember the article that I read it in advance of this episode, where it actually almost verbatim says Sleep Access is preferred over sleep loss at any given case. So like when in doubt, err on the side of getting too much rather than too little. Yeah,

Brady Holmer  36:50

I read an article where someone tried to explain the mechanism by which long sleep might promote cardiovascular disease or something, and they kind of it was seemed like a lot of work around. So they were like, oh, maybe, you know, if you’re in bed extra three hours a day, that means you’re inactive for another three hours a day. But most of it didn’t make sense. To me, the kind of confounding made more sense where like, if you have someone sleeping 12 hours per day, probably something else is like wrong with them. It’s not that they’re this high level athlete who’s sleeping 12 hours per night or something like that.

Trevor Connor  37:17

So I actually do have a theory there, because I used to suffer from really bad insomnia, and I ended up actually going into a really good sleep candidates to get help. And they had some really interesting things to share with me, one of them is, the optimal amount of sleep for everybody is different. So that the eight hour rule doesn’t apply to everybody. And they said, more often than not, and this was certainly my case, when they see somebody with insomnia, it’s because they were trying to get too much sleep. And they said, what you see is when somebody is getting too much sleep initially, it’s great. And you’re you’re getting lots of good recovery. But if you’re getting more than your body needs, your body tries to extend out the sleep cycles. And what ultimately ends up happening is you spend a much larger portion of time in light sleep, and you actually see a decrease in both your REM and your deep sleep. So even though you’re in bed, and technically asleep longer, you’re actually not getting as much of those key phases asleep, as you would if you were getting the the optimal hours of sleep.

Brady Holmer  38:21

That’s interesting. I think it’s a yeah, that seems like a sound theory. And I think the other aspect of that could be do people you know, claiming to have maybe insomnia sort of related to what you said, are they just trying to maybe go to bed at a time that’s not really aligning with their Chrono type. So we have these, this idea of Chrono types where you know, you’re a night person or early person, so night owls, you know, they maybe go to bed sometime between midnight and like one and then sleep till eight or nine. And then these early birds maybe tend to go to bed between eight and 9pm. And then wake up the next morning, like five to six. So if you tell somebody they need to be sleeping at 9pm and they go and lay down in bed, but their Chrono type is wired to maybe, you know, go to sleep at midnight, well, they’re gonna lay in bed for three hours because they’re not tired and oh, they don’t have insomnia. They’re just you know, trying to put themselves to sleep when they’re not tired. So I think there there could be kind of a role of of that as well. No, that

Trevor Connor  39:18

makes a lot of sense too. And that was something they brought up they said they see insomnia all the time and people who are in a relationship and starting to sleep with somebody and you’re just either need different lengths to sleep or you just your your sleep cycle timing as you said is different and you’re trying to align with somebody else’s sleep pattern or

Griffin McMath  39:36

they just won’t stick to their side of the bed Yeah, that’s

Brady Holmer  39:42

Yeah, unfortunately like you know, we have this society that kind of is just like your most people are working like this schedule that’s nine to five and so you, if your natural kind of chronotype falls out of that, then you might be seen as being lazy or you know, being you know, something’s wrong with you versus like me. Have you just aren’t wired to kind of have this schedule. And there’s kind of this debate as to whether or their night owls or their morning birds, you know, can you influence your own Chrono type through lifestyle factors, I think you certainly can like, if you exercise at certain times of the day, and you try to put yourself on this different sleep schedule, I think that one can do that. But I think that there is definitely a genetic influence as well, where some people are just innately night people or or morning people. So there’s kind of interesting, evolutionary like theory behind that. But we don’t have to get into that we don’t want to.

Trevor Connor  40:33

I do want to go back to though, what you wrote about in your paper, because I found it very fascinating. You talked about endothelial dysfunction, we actually talked about the endothelial a few episodes ago, when we were talking about oxygen delivery. But just as a reminder, all the blood vessels in your body are lined by the cells, which is your endothelial, and if it’s functioning correctly, you have very smooth flow of the blood past all the cells, when you have dysfunction, think of it like having smooth skin versus rough skin with cuts all over it, if you have that dysfunction in the endothelial, basically, things in your blood are going to grab onto or hold on to the sides of the blood vessels. And that is the first necessary step of atherosclerosis, they then get these things get under the endothelial get inside, essentially, and kind of bird in there. And then you get what are called macrophages that come these are immune type cell that come in and try to deal with it, they they’ve kind of burrow into the the endothelial cells, and then grow into what are called the spongy cells. So you get this plaque buildup in the plaque itself is not damaging, but if it bursts, then it’s releasing all this toxic material into your bloodstream. And that can cause very serious events. So what you’re saying in your paper, sorry for me to kind of go on that whole tangent is we’re seeing when you get poor sleep quality, you’re seeing this dysfunction in the endothelial, which is very concerning. And you said, you can see it within a day. Yeah,

Brady Holmer  42:14

within a day. And I’ll just, I’ll say, maybe not, it’s not a correction, but just in the way that like experimentally, this would be shown. So we’re not necessarily seeing maybe more plaque buildup in the actual artery, say after. And what we did in some of the studies in the lab that I was a part of, as well as some of the studies that were referenced in this review, we just deprive people of sleep for, like 24 hours. So it was very acute, but there are studies that do it for, say, five hours per night for several nights in a row. There are kind of two models to do that. But we don’t necessarily see the plaque say get larger, maybe within that span of time. But you see these precipitating events, as you mentioned earlier, where the flow in the artery becomes more turbulent, instead of streamlined, as you kind of mentioned. And so these events that would promote the development of plaque start to occur even just within 24 hours. And we would call that endothelial dysfunction. So yeah, that can happen in as short as 24 hours. And you know, this over time, it’s going to lead to this buildup of the fatty plaques and potentially lead to these cardiovascular events.

Trevor Connor  43:22

The other thing that I found really interesting, you talked about in your paper, as you were looking at the mechanisms of this, and you brought up a few things. And it was I had never actually really thought about this very much. But when you’re getting a full night of sleep, what you’re seeing is, inflammation comes down. So I think it was in your paper that they talked about, it’s a few hours before sleep where you see actually the highest level of a lot of your inflammatory cytokines and then through sleep, they all kind of come down. The other thing that comes down when you’re sleeping is your blood pressure. And you’ll also see in your nervous system, your parasympathetic system kind of kicks in and takes over and your sympathetic system gets down regulated. And when you aren’t getting enough sleep, or when you aren’t getting quality sleep, none of that happens. So inflammation stays elevated, blood pressure stays elevated, and you stay more sympathetically activated. And this can lead to a host of potential issues. Yeah,

Brady Holmer  44:18

it’s essentially I think, the way people can think about sort of sleep and why it’s beneficial for cardiovascular health specifically is like it’s just this time where the cardiovascular system you know, during the day, you’re you’re standing up so your blood pressure is elevated your blood, you know, your heart’s pumping blood to say if you’re exercising to your skeletal muscle, if you’ve just finished a meal to your stomach. This nighttime is just this period where the cardiovascular system can like finally, rest, like you said, the inflammation levels kind of go down, your blood pressure drops overnight, or at least it should it’s called Blood Pressure dipping when blood pressure falls during the night if people are non depressed, that’s associated with greater risk for cardiovascular disease. So in some people there Blood Pressure doesn’t fall overnight. And that’s, that’s not a good thing, you know, your blood vessels get a chance to dilate. So all of these things just promote like this, almost just this restoration of the cardiovascular system. And so as you mentioned, like when that doesn’t happen if you’re, if you’re awake all night, or if you’re having disturbed sleep, that’s going to promote not only a lack of this restoration, which I think is what kind of promotes these chronic adverse effects. But then also the next day, you know, your system hasn’t had the chance to restore, so your arteries aren’t gonna function properly, your heart is going to be kind of overly stressed and things like that. Interestingly, there was a study published a few years ago, where they had people exercise in the morning after a night of sleep deprivation. And they actually showed that certain markers of damage from the heart similar to those that are released during a heart attack were elevated during exercise if people didn’t sleep adequately the night before it. So I myself am guilty of exercising maybe on sub optimal sleep, I’ve sacrificed sleep for exercise a few too many times. But yeah, it just goes to show that you’re not getting that enough sleep is going to promote these adverse consequences kind of the next day, acutely, and then in the long term, as well.

Trevor Connor  46:11

So I think we’ve dived into a lot of the sides of how sleep affects cardiovascular health, we could certainly dive a lot deeper into that. But maybe what we can do now is just talk about some of the other conditions that are impacted. I know you want to talk about diabetes. And then let’s bring this all around and talk about sleep diet and performance. So throw this to you, Brady, tell us a little bit about how sleep impacts diabetes as well.

Brady Holmer  46:37

Yeah, for sure. So once again, we can kind of point to some of those observational studies that show people who sleep less and have received quality or elevated risk for diabetes. But you know, this entire time, or at least earlier in our discussion, we talked about the interaction between you know how sleep might promote poor dietary choices, and vice versa? Well, if you don’t sleep enough, that’s impairs your body’s ability to metabolize or use the food that you eat and your body’s responses to the food that you eat. So one of the probably most important indicators of that, and something with relevance to diabetes is insulin sensitivity. So you want better insulin sensitivity, essentially, what that means is that if you say eat something that’s I guess, any food at all, but typically higher in carbohydrates, your body is able to release insulin, and then your cells, your skeletal muscles, and other tissues are sensitive to an insulin binds to them, they’re gonna allow that glucose to be taken up. And that’s the way in which our body regulates blood glucose is by being insulin sensitive. So people with diabetes, type two diabetes, for instance, or insulin insensitive. And that’s why blood glucose levels are elevated, in particular after meals. So if you don’t sleep it off, several studies have shown this, that insulin sensitivity is impaired the next day, blood glucose levels are elevated, sometimes to levels of those with you take people who don’t have diabetes, and deprive them of just a single night of sleep. The next day, their glucose levels are dysregulated. They look like somebody who has diabetes, which is pretty crazy to just happen in one night. So one could only you know, surmise over time, how that’s going to impact diabetes risk. So you know, given that information, then tying it in kind of with what we talked about earlier in our discussion, your insulin sensitivity is down because you haven’t gotten enough sleep in the past two to three days. Also, you’re maybe eating a poor diet. So you’re eating a diet higher in refined carbohydrates, or just anything at all like that your body is not going to be able to metabolize, were utilized properly, those things are going to compound on one another. So highly processed diet, poor insulin sensitivity, those are kind of just a recipe for type two diabetes, metabolic syndrome, metabolic dysfunction. And so looking at it kind of from that aspect, it’s it’s easy to see maybe why we just see these parallels of poor sleep throughout the world, increased risk for diabetes throughout the world, increased metabolic conditions and things like that. It’s certainly a problem. And

Trevor Connor  49:00

this goes back to what you’re talking about before is it creates kind of a vicious circle, because insulin actually promotes hunger. So if you’ve reduced your insulin sensitivity, and you have more insulin flowing through your system, you’re going to be hungry, or you’re going to have more cravings. And as you said, you’re going to start craving, the less healthy food,

Brady Holmer  49:18

right? Because despite how much you eat, your body’s not really doing what it should be doing with that food. So you’re, you’re well fed but you’re not nourished, perhaps is the correct way to say it.

Trevor Connor  49:28

Well, let’s shift gears here, because it was a topic that we obviously really want to get to. And we’re getting close to 50 minutes here. So I have the question of is exercise protective against any of these effects? Or is training additive? Yeah, so

Brady Holmer  49:45

some of the stuff that I’m actually most interested in recently is this evidence regarding the protective effects of exercise against sleep deprivation. I touched upon that kind of in the paper that we’ve been referencing, but there are some other very Very neat and very like elegant studies showing that when. So when you’re sleep deprived, as we’ve talked about your insulin sensitivity goes down, but also things with relevance to athletic performance and just overall health. So mitochondrial function, protein synthesis, so your body’s ability to synthesize proteins to, you know, make neurotransmitters, hormones, but also just build muscle inflammation and cognitive function. All those things are adversely affected by sleep deprivation. And there have been a few studies to show this, but there was one in particular where they deprived people of sleep for, I think it was five nights in a row. So maybe they got four hours of sleep, which for most people is certainly not enough, probably around half to half of what they should probably be getting. During that five days, performing high intensity interval training prevented most of those adverse effects from happening. So in other words, if you’re depriving yourself of sleep, exercising, can prevent some of those negative effects on health, so sort of can maintain you some of those outcomes to levels, you know, if your sleep was sufficient. And I think it’s very interesting. And obviously, I mentioned earlier that exercising on poor sleep could have maybe a detrimental effect for the heart, you know, that’s only been kind of indicated one study. But I think what these kinds of data show are that exercise may kind of absolve some of the sins of poor sleep. And it’s not a it’s not an excuse to sleep less because you’re fit. But certainly, people who are fitter people who regularly are active adverse sleep has less of an impact on them than it does for people who are inactive, which I think is good news, because we can’t always get adequate sleep, life happens sometimes, you know, sometimes we’ll go a few nights without adequate sleep, or maybe, you know, just have to pull an all nighter or something like that. So you can almost think of exercise as like a strategy to offset some of these negative health effects of, of not getting enough sleep. And it’s a very, I’m very interested in because, again, like, we can’t always prevent sufficiency. We should be promoting sleep, but it’s like, Oh, what if you don’t get enough sleep? What can you do to counteract that, but

Trevor Connor  52:05

I’m going to flip this around. So I’m glad you brought that up, that exercise can help be protective against some of these effects. I have actually a chapter out of a book called Sleep sport and the brain. It was Shawna Halston, who had on her show talking about sleep. And she brought up the fact that you see poor sleep quality, and athletes who often see more disturbed sleep and athletes. So I do wonder, and I’m not talking about people that go out and do you know, 30 minutes of running or biking every day and are just getting next to this is athletes who are training and trying to perform. I do worry that because that sort of training does seem to have an impact on their sleep quality, that we’re creating another bit of a vicious cycle here.

Brady Holmer  52:49

Yeah, I think that can certainly be true. There’s very good evidence that exercise promotes good sleep. But I think as you mentioned, what we’re talking about here maybe is higher level athletes, people who are either trading for a living or doing it for more than just a hobby, I think that can certainly have negative effects on sleep, whether that’s due to these athletes being overtrained, perhaps, and they’re you know, overly sympathetically activated, so they can’t really fall asleep at night. Or perhaps the anxiety due to say, like a competition or a training session, the next morning, I think all of those things can kind of impact sleep. But there could also be a direct effect, I think of hard exercise, definitely impair sleep. So if there are athletes doing afternoon trading sessions in close proximity to their sleep, say, you know, maybe three or four hours like a high intensity exercise session, that’s not going to really promote healthy sleep, especially if they don’t practice some sort of strategy to calm themselves down or bring their sympathetic nervous system down before going to sleep. So yeah, I definitely think that high level maybe athletics and competition don’t necessarily lend themselves to to proper sleep habits. And I think that’s kind of why this discussion on sleep health and athletes has become so popular. Well, and

Griffin McMath  54:01

I think we’re talking so much about sleep at night. But what about sleep during the day, the classic the nap, one of my favorite things in life a good nap. But one of the things I was really happy to see his research support, especially for those athletes who either have sleep patterns, like you just said, impacted by training or right before a competition, you know, they might be experiencing partial sleep deprivation, so maybe four hours of sleep a night or five hours. So the impact of having that post lunch enough so like a one to 130 nap that half an hour. And I love seeing that alertness, sleepiness, short term memory, and accuracy of a choice reaction time test. We’re all improved by napping for 30 minutes. Even their sprint times improved for these particular athletes. I’m like 30 minutes does wonders. So, Trevor, this might be my justification to ask for sleep pods in the office, you know for posts line I’m sure we get some workouts but I think that’s something that we can’t neglect is there’s so much of this episode, we’ve talked about sleep at night, but their sleep and the day, sometimes either intentional or your body just breaks down and it says, no, no, I’m gonna choose the time now because you didn’t, you know, get it in at night, your body will tell you, it’s now or never Yeah,

Brady Holmer  55:19

I think if athletes are feeling that pressure during the day to sleep, you definitely should not ignore that, you know, obviously, if you’re in the middle of like a class or something, you probably shouldn’t go to sleep. But scheduling in nap times, I think for those people would be crucial. And as you mentioned, there’s a ton of evidence just to support napping, not just for athletes, but for most people. I mean, a majority of people are probably not getting enough sleep. So I think that if you’re able to fit it into your life, a 20 to 30 minute nap can can definitely work wonders. I’m a new dad. So we have a nine, a nine month old in the house. And I’ve also been embracing naps, you get no sleep, I get no sleep. But during the day while he’s sleeping, sometimes I fit in a nap often longer than 30 minutes, because I need it. But uh, it’s yeah, they’re, they’re pretty wonderful. And there’s kind of some of you need studies that show, you know, we’re talking about these interactions between exercise and sleep and diet and things like that. But if you’re trying to learn something, for example, maybe prepare for a podcast, if you read that information, or try to learn that information. And then you exercise and then you take a nap, you learn that information better than if you just read that information and took a nap or exercised in then, you know, try to learn that information. So exercise naps, they synergize to promote this better memory, which is kind of interesting.

Trevor Connor  56:32

So I gotta ask you, which is worse being a new dad who gets no sleep? Or being a new dad who gets no sleep and has read all the research on what that lack of sleep is doing to your body?

Brady Holmer  56:44

Yeah, probably probably the latter, you know, ignorance is not you can’t be ignorant about the the effects anymore. So, but it is interesting that you bring that up, because knowing all of this information about the importance of sleep, you know, I think probably you know, I don’t have the data. But like, once I think my son was born, my sleeps probably decreased by around kind of like an hour, maybe per night. I didn’t intend to feel any worse. So I kind of began not to question the importance of sleep, but like, just questioning the importance of sleep for me, per se. And like, well, maybe I didn’t need eight hours of sleep at night, maybe I’m fine with like six and a half to seven. And again, fitting in that nap sometimes, you know, once or twice a week was definitely crucial, because you would hit those days where you’re like, I just can’t keep my eyes open right now. But I found that in the initial months, when he really wasn’t sleeping, and neither were we it was like, I’m kind of I’m kind of okay with just like six, six and a half hours. But I also was maybe just running off of like adrenaline for a few months.

Trevor Connor  57:43

That’s fair, the crash might come later. Right, right. Here’s where I ended up after reading all this research. And again, thanks for everything you shared with me it was it was a fascinating read. This is just kind of sharing my thoughts, but interested in both your reactions to this. So you know, I’ve seen the research that hard training can have an impact on sleep. We just talked about the effects of diet on sleep. And the one thing that did seem to be pretty certain in the research was carbohydrates, more the simple carbohydrates. So lower quality carbohydrates do seem to affect your ability to fall asleep, you you end up waking up more. We know that a lot of these hard training endurance athletes are trying to get as many carbohydrates into the systems as possible. And they’re probably eating a lot more of these simple lower quality carbohydrates. My question is, is all of this creating another vicious circle? That is having an impact on athlete’s health? And certainly we’ve done other episodes where we’ve talked about a fib and athletes and how that’s much higher in endurance athletes, there is some evidence of cardiovascular disease in endurance athletes, are we creating a bad scenario here? Where diets and sleep? Are all having this interplay with this high performing athlete that actually well, they’re performing very well may have a longer term consequences on their health?

Brady Holmer  59:07

Yeah, I mean, I think that is definitely a case. And I think you know, to be reasonable about it, I think if we look at most athletes, whether they’re, you know, at the elite levels, or just an amateur training, most of them don’t want to give up their training, what I’m interested in kind of, you know, before earlier in my life, I was interested in just like, I’m a runner, primarily, but I do some cycling and things like that. Now, it’s just how, how fast can I run, you know, at the expense of maybe everything else? And so, I think as people start to get older, and people who aren’t elite athletes, you need to sort of shift your focus to being how can I perform at the highest level while also optimizing my health because the long term health shouldn’t be if your paycheck doesn’t depend on really how well you perform? You know, are you willing to really sacrifice your health for that? So I think what most people can probably try to think about is, you know, how can I train hard but also they optimize my metabolic health and also my, my sleep health. So it’s like, well, maybe you don’t need to be eating all of these processed foods that say, you know, someone during the Tour de France might need because they’re writing, you know, hundreds of miles a day, but like, maybe I should shift my diet to more complex carbohydrates and healthy whole grains and things like that. So, yeah, I think that I wouldn’t say that athletes, you know, are maybe creating this vicious cycle. But I think they need to kind of reframe how they think about the interaction between all of these things as to not set themselves up for problems later down the line. And there are some people who are willing to say just for themselves, that both burning the candle at both ends, but that’s not really sustainable in the long term.

Griffin McMath  1:00:39

And you think what you’re talking about is the science of longevity, which is getting so much attention now. And increasingly, over the last couple of decades, which exercise and sleep are two core components of the science of longevity, and not only for the sake of our overall health, but the point that you just made Brady, for your ability to enjoy those sports, and that those activities for longer rather than burning through and we talked this and other episodes, like, great, you’re able to ride for a few years really hard, really fast. And then you can enjoy the sport the rest of your life, like what’s the there’s a huge trade off there. So kind of that science of longevity, like pushing it to an appropriate max per person per situation.

Trevor Connor  1:01:19

But I think you brought up one of the really important elements of that, which is hormesis, which is this concept of too little of something is bad, but too much of something is bad. And you brought up, you seem to see a relationship between too much sleep and too little sleep with heart disease. I think a lot of these other things apply to and it’s one of the things that we have to face as high performing athletes that we know moderate levels of exercise are incredibly good for your health. But too little exercise is not good for you. But too much exercise is actually going to have some consequences. So we always need to be aware of that and careful.

Brady Holmer  1:01:54

Yeah, for sure. It’s, it’s always about striking a balance. And again, I think that that balance just like it is with sleep, it applies also to exercise and diet, you know, what can you personally kind of tolerate? How much sleep per night do you need? How much can you tolerate? how much how many carbohydrates? Can you eat? And how much can you tolerate? So all of those things. It’s a constant experiment, you know, being an athlete, especially being one who wants to continue to do activities at a fairly high level. Like with age, you’re always just thinking like, what’s not necessarily what’s the edge of the very limit, I can push, but kind of what’s this nice fine kind of line that I can ride to enjoy life but also like perform at a high level. It’s a constant iteration and experimentation.

Trevor Connor  1:02:34

Great point, we’re ready to this has been a really fascinating conversation. I’ve really appreciated this. You said you’ve listened to the show. So you probably know how we end the show, which is our take homes, everybody gets one minute to summarize or give what they feel is the most salient point that we hope everybody takes away from this episode. And we always start with the guests. So Brady, if you need a minute to think about it, think about it. Otherwise, what’s your key point?

Brady Holmer  1:03:00

Yeah, I think my key point would be that your body operates best with a consistent schedule and something that you can maintain for a long time. So as much as you can, you know, we talked about sleep this whole time, try to get to sleep at around the same time every day. I think that’s going to set you up for not only healthy sleep habits, but if you’re a regular exerciser, keeping your body primed to perform well. And it will also help you kind of regulate your appetite, help you metabolize your food and help your body kind of perform at the highest level. So consistency is key.

Griffin McMath  1:03:36

If you want to go next. Yeah, I would say when in doubt, sleep a little longer, I would say there is really not an appreciation right now for the connection between sleep deprivation and inflammation, we think about just that kind of core process that happens in the body and just the havoc that it absolutely reeks. So inflammation and sleep deprivation leading to so much havoc within the body. And then I think also for those that are really struggling with, you know, sleep deprivation and training, the power of a 30 minute nap that will not be missed on me. So

Trevor Connor  1:04:15

I’m not sure this is the most salient point of the whole episode. But it was something I was thinking about earlier. And I didn’t get a chance to say so I’m going to use it as my take home. But I was really fascinated by what you had in your review about the fact that when you don’t get quality sleep, when you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t shut down in the same way. Inflammation doesn’t come down. The blood pressure doesn’t come down. You stay sympathetically activated. So the image I had in my head and I apologize the summer listeners I’ve gotten a couple emails about stop using car analogies. We hate cars. I like using car analogies because believe it or not a car is a much simpler machine than the human body. So sometimes it’s easy to explain things in the context of cars. This case What I picture is, when you’re driving a car, it’s heating up a lot of things that are happening in the car. And it’s designed to handle that. But all these things are probably damaging to the car if the car was always running. So it needs that time to go into the garage, and shut down and cool down. So the way I was picturing this low quality, short sleep is you put the car in the garage, but you leave the car on overnight. And I have to believe if you do that night after night, after night, and the car is never turned off, you’re going to start having a lot of issues with the car. And I think it’s the same thing here. So I’m a little worried about giving this because you do hear about people to get so concerned about their sleep quality, they stopped being able to sleep, because they feel like it’s something they have to for. So I guess my recommendation or my thought is, make sure whether it’s a nap or whatever, you’re just finding time to shut down, don’t do the I going to work till I go to bed, and then I’ve only got six hours to sleep. And then I gotta get up and get back to work. It’s think of it more as I need that time to shut down, let my body just down regulate everything and do what it needs to do.

Brady Holmer  1:06:07

It’s almost more extraordinary than that. Because when you park your car in your garage, and then shut it down, it’s just shut down. But when your body is sleeping overnight, it’s hardly shut down. It’s actively repairing, it’s actively kind of quelling inflammation, building proteins. So you’re not just shut down, you’re actually actively repairing it. And I think if people think about sleep like that, then it makes it seem more important rather than just a time where you’re unconscious for six to eight hours.

Trevor Connor  1:06:35

No at a good point. And that goes back to my car is actually a much simpler machine than the human body. Much simpler. Brady, a pleasure to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

Brady Holmer  1:06:45

It was great. Like I said, you know, constant listener. So this was really a treat and you know, discussing sleep, diet, performance, all this stuff. I could do it all day long. So thanks so much for having me on. Pleasure. Thank you.

Griffin McMath  1:06:58

That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback. Tweet at us at @fasttalklabs. Or join the conversation at forums.fasttalklabs.com. Learn from our experts today at fasttalklabs.com for Brady Holmer and Trevor Connor. I’m Griffin McMath. Thanks for listening!