Sup for Sleep | How Our Favorite Sport Helps Fight Sleep Deprivation

Sup for Sleep | How Our Favorite Sport Helps Fight Sleep Deprivation
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Sup for Sleep  by Jodelle Fitzwater

You’d love to paddle more, but your chronic sleep deprivation is starting to take it’s toll, and energy is lacking.

The CDC reported recently that 35% of our nation is not getting enough sleep.  And lack of sleep has a dramatic effect on everything from your performance at work to your performance on the paddleboard.

Jodelle and daughterAnd yet, ironically, getting out on your board could be the solution to your sleep problem. If that doesn’t put a hitch in your giddy-up and compel you to go grab your board and stroke it out for a bit, what I’m about to propose will also enhance your athletic performance.

Enter heliotherapy, or in other words, light therapy from the sun.  Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia to tickle your brain cells:

“Light therapy which strikes the retina of the eyes is used to treat circadian rhythm disorders such as delayed sleep phase disorder..,” or in other words, being unable to fall asleep when you should rest well.

Circadian Rhythm and Artificial Lights

So what does SUP have to do with sleep and circadian rhythm?
Downward dog sup yoga by Jodelle

Easy.  The best way to re-program your light and dark cycle starts with exposing your retina and your body to early morning or at least midday sunlight.  So, not only can a paddle at the start of the day help with your internal clock and help you sleep better at night, but in addition, you are getting Vitamin D.  

Vitamin D deficiencies because of our lives lived indoors have led to levels lower than 40 ng/ml which cause insomnia, sleep apnea, unexplained awakenings to light sleep, restless leg and trouble falling asleep. All of these disorders keep us from healing our bodies during sleep.

Yet, just a lovely 20 minute paddle with some areas of our bodies exposed to sunlight can provide a hefty dose or 10,000 IUS of the best form of Vitamin D you can get – all from the sun, glorious, sun.  Just as plants use photosynthesis to make energy from the sun, so we too, make energy from the sun. Ever had the #bestdayever after a paddle out? Now you know why!

That early morning light and Vitamin D then tells our bodies that daytime has occurred, and towards evening, prepares the body to make melatonin, our relax, wind down, then sleep hormone.  This in turn, helps us calm down, fall asleep, stay asleep longer and more deeply. In addition, powering down all artificial light from electronics, LED house-lights, and florescent bulbs will serve to also re-program our circadian rhythm, creating a more restful sleep and more energy in the morning to get out there and paddle longer and stronger!

Why Negative Ions Are Not So Negative After All

Want even more reasons to stand up and paddle even when you currently might not feel like it?  Any body of water emits negative ions, and while that may sound like a bad thing (negative), it’s actually quite positive, so to speak.  Negative ions are oxygen atoms charged with an bonus electron, unseen by the naked eye, created by the effect of water, sunlight, and the earth’s natural radiation, and specifically found near any moving water source.  Why do you always feel so good standing at the ocean’s sea shore or standing on your paddleboard on a beautiful body of water?  Negative ions.

Insomniacs, suffer no more.  Here’s my best advice as to how to begin to re-program that internal clock.

  1. With what little energy you have, load your board and get out there even for a light and leisurely 20 minute paddle with arms and legs exposed.  Even if you just go sit on your board and breathe in the fresh air, you will set the stage for the benefits to ensue.  Take in those negative ions.
  2. Look towards the sun (not at the sun) with your eyes open, no sunglasses and let the light filter into your retina to tell your brain “this is day”.
  3. In the evening, have dinner with the setting sun, and then avoid all artificial and bright light to tell your brain, “this is night.”  If you must view electronic devices after dark, consider investing the the iconic and retro Blue Blocker sunglasses to allow your eyes to see an evening amber glow versus the stimulating blue light that tends to keep us too amped.
  4. Make it a habit to plan your paddle out sessions as much as you can at the first morning light, or around “high noon” which is when your system is primed and ready for full spectrum sunlight.

It’s a “hel-io good idea” to make beneficial use of that SUP of yours and get some heliotherapy, regardless of whether you suffer from insomnia or any other sleep related issue.  Circadian rhythm training is also responsible for cancer prevention, heart health, and even just general well being.

Bottom line?  More paddling in the sunshine = more paddling in the sunshine.  The more you get out there, the better you will feel.  The better you feel, the more you will sleep well and you WILL have MORE energy to paddle on.

For more info on how SLOWING DOWN using paddleboard can help us live a more fit and healthy lifestyle, check out my article Something Magically Meditative about Paddleboarding

The more you sup the better you feel

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Fitness Host for SUP TV, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, PaddleFit Coach Training Instructor, & Certified Nutrition Coach.