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What's The Deal With Sleep?

By Coach Jacob Seymour

I love the Big Bang Theory for various reasons. Sheldon is the primary reason. I love how the guy is simultaneously a genius and outright oblivious. In this clip, Sheldon succinctly describes the physical benefit afforded to the brain while we sleep. Take a look and laugh.

His line, like most of the scientific points he makes on the show, actually are backed by science. Here is a study discussing the cleansing effect of sleep on the brain: here1. Let’s get brainwashed!

We know we should sleep. We know we should make time for sleep. We know both sleep quality and quantity is important. And some of us already know some things about how to achieve this, like having good sleep hygiene, avoiding electronic screens and blue lights within an hour of trying to sleep, and personal differences in how eating and exercising can affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

However, life has a way of interrupting our plans to do what we know we ought to do. RESPONding to this by preemption is the hallmark of RESPONsibility – being a forward thinking, mature adult. We justify sleep deprivation sometimes on the basis of other responsibilities that we do make time to respond to. By responding to some responsibilities and not others, we prioritize. This is acknowledging one responsibility as more important than the other, that one is worth doing before the other, or maybe at the expense of the other!

Let’s examine why the decision to get some shut eye may not be as simple as “to sleep or not to sleep”.


On one hand, I wish we humans did not have such a great capacity to function without sleep (relative to some species), but on the other I am thankful that we can because it collectively makes a more resilient creature. All in all, the less we take advantage of this, however, the better off we will be able to show up in life in terms of performance.

Sleep should not be seen as a luxury. We can hold it – but we will all use the bathroom. We can focus for 20 minutes really hard on our work – but our minds will drift, at least briefly. We can fast – but we are going to consume something eventually. See, we have this uncanny ability to delay our biological needs. But there is a cost. Holding our bladder simply creates a distracting feeling of discomfort. Not too bad. But when we delay our eating? Well, yea, you know: hangriness, lethargy, lack of focus, and, if long enough, it affects our athletic performance. So, when I ask, “what’s the cost of waiting to sleep,” what comes to your mind?

Based on Sheldon’s logic, you’re may be allowing products of brain metabolism to build-up (which sounds something like Alzheimer’s disease… but I won’t go there!).

Sacrificing our sleep affects every macro aspect of the next day. Every single one. In most cases, I think the time we earn from the sleep we nix is spent less advantageously than if we had slept, resulting in lower net productivity. The truth is that if the only consequence of sleep deprivation was having to do what you’d normally do with a perception of sleepiness – I’d say go for it! Buck up and be tough. I think a lot of us subconsciously make the decision not to sleep as if this were to case – but it’s not.

One week of six hours of sleep results in increased inflammation and two days of recovery sleep cannot reverse the mental cost of sleep deprivation.2 Repeating this pattern can have effects that last for months after returning to healthy levels of sleep. Sleep deprivation will interfere with your ability to recover between bouts and sets.3 Sleep deprivation interrupts normal glucose and insulin metabolism and this is thought to decrease one’s time to exhaustion.4 Finally, it is accepted that one ought to ensure adequate rest to stave off clinical overtraining.5

Not sleeping is a horrible decision not only because of what it can do to your physiology, but what it does to your psychology. Without sleep, describe your:

  1. Positivity
    1. Are things happening to you or are you making things happen?
    2. Are people pleasant to be around and interact with? Is your fuse a little shorter?
    3. Do you find yourself regretting what’s to come or that there will be negative consequences to your decisions?
  2. Motivation
    1. Do you want to exercise? Does the idea of depleting yourself sound worse all of a sudden?
    2. Do you want to indulge or do you want to prepare your food? Do you want fast and easy or do you have the patience to create a nutritious meal?
    3. Do you want to go the extra mile or do just enough?
    4. Do you want to prove it to the world how great you are or do you just want to get things done?
  3. Enthusiasm
    1. Do you have a zest for life? Are you excited to work? Are you excited to conquer the day?
    2. Do people wonder why you’re excited or are curious about what interests you because of the way you talk about it?
    3. Do you consent quickly to good decisions? Do you happily turn down poor decisions?
  4. Attentiveness
    1. Can you focus?
    2. Are things slipping your mind?
    3. What have you forgotten?
    4. Did you say something to someone that you will regret?
    5. Are the details a chore to consider?

Lack of sleep makes it hard to be positive, motivated, enthusiastic, and attentive. These qualities are prerequisites for a good life. Losing sleep makes having a good life hard. Is that thing you are replacing with sleep REALLY worth these qualities or a good life? Must having a cantankerous young child and sleeping be mutually exclusive? What about woefully working the night shift? Being a graduate student knee-deep in grueling research? I think not. Find time. Can’t? Make it. It’s worth it. You owe it to the world.


1. Xie L, Kang H, Xu Q, et al. Sleep drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain. Science. 2013;342(6156):373-377. doi:10.1126/science.1241224.

2. Pejovic S, Basta M, Vgontzas AN, et al. Effects of recovery sleep after one work week of mild sleep restriction on interleukin-6 and cortisol secretion and daytime sleepiness and performance. Am J Physiol - Endocrinol Metab. 2013;305(7):E890-E896. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00301.2013.

3. Rg M, Cf B. The effect of sleep loss on high intensity exercise and recovery. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1984;55(11):1031-1035.

4. Helder TV, Radomski MW. Sleep Deprivation and the Effect on Exercise Performance. Sports Med. 1989;7(4):235-247. doi:10.2165/00007256-198907040-00002.

5. Kreher JB, Schwartz JB. Overtraining Syndrome. Sports Health. 2012;4(2):128-138. doi:10.1177/1941738111434406.

Group Class Programming for Wednesday February 1st, 2017:

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 15 minutes of:
10 dumbbell Thrusters (10/5#)
10 Push-ups
5 Hanging Knee Raises

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 15 minutes of:
15 unbroken Wall Ball shots (14/8#)
10 Push-ups
5 Knees-to-Elbows

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 15 minutes of:
20 unbroken Wall Ball shots (20/14#)
15 Push-ups
10 Toes-to-Bar