4MV #243 Naps make your sleep-deprived brain worse ✔ here's how to help it get better

⭑ A sleep-deprived brain is not a smart brain ✔ here's why
⭑ Brewer's yeast was an accidental find for me ✔ I now take it daily
⭑ Stiff tendons are healthy ✔ As long as they are not too stiff, here's why
⭑ Knee tendon exercises to reduce or avoid pain ✔ at home

All strength to Ukraine 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦



I've recently been paying a lot more attention to the tendons associated with running.

Regular readers will know how, in a sudden urge for social connection, I joined the local Masters Athletics club. They encouraged me to enter some State competitions, and I was surprisingly competitive.

Now I consistently do box jumps, bounding, and sprint drills for sprint training, and tempo runs and interval training for long distance training.

These exercises, which have been a game-changer in my running journey, are not just about improving tendon stiffness, strength, and flexibility. They also enhance the load distribution of running across my knee joints, boost shock absorption, and align and stabilise my knee joints.

Tendon exercises can also help you avoid or reduce knee pain - see item #3.

A less strenuous way to improve your health span is to include Brewer's yeast in your diet. I found out by chance, but it has scientific backing—see item #2.

If you are not getting enough sleep and trying to catch up with short recovery naps, then you may be chasing your tail. Research finds that napping can't compensate for the degradation of brain functioning caused by persistent sleep loss—see item #1 below.


01 Sleep Loss Leads to Decreased Cognitive Performance Not Restored by Recovery Sleep

If you regularly don't get enough sleep, it's essential to know that naps and weekend recovery sleep don’t compensate for chronic sleep loss.

Chronic sleep loss is known as "sleep debt"—it is sleep that you owe your body and mind. Research shows a correlation between chronic sleep debt and sustained cognitive deficits, such as loss of attention and poor cognitive performance.

Surprisingly, taking variable short sleep at different times and of different periods has been found to worsen the sleep deficit effect on your brain, not improve it.

⇒ Learning and memory are particularly affected, with sleep deprivation impairing the formation of new memories. This is attributed to structural changes in the hippocampus that are not completely restored by recovery sleep.

The fundamental reason that short recovery sleep does not work is that our brain requires both deep NREM* sleep (slow-wave sleep) and REM sleep to recover, e.g., replenish energy stores, clear metabolic waste from the brain, and restore hormonal balance.

Brain health relies on our sleep reaching the deepest stages of NREM sleep when Delta waves - a type of slow brainwave (0.5–4 Hz) - are initiated. It's during the Delta wave period that neurotoxins are cleared and neural circuits are repaired.

*REM = Rapid Eye Movement sleep. NREM = Non Rapid Eye Movement Sleep.

What this means for you: Although we are all different, on average, we need 7 to 9 hours of sleep for our brain to fully recover.

We need this amount of time because for each sleep cycle, typically about 90 minutes, we only enter the NREM deep sleep period for a relatively short time. So, we need multiple cycles to get enough REM and NREM sleep to recover and restore our brain each night.

  • Aim for a dark room and minimal interruptions
  • Aim to fall asleep quickly, as this will get you to deep sleep faster. This means don’t play with your devices right up until you turn out the light.
  • Listen to Delta wave music for 10 to 15 minutes before dropping off - Spotify has hundreds of choices, and you can set a timer on the iPhone to stop playing after, say, 20 minutes.
  • If you do miss out on sleep, catch up by sleeping longer for multiple nights, not cap-napping, since the latter will not help your brain recover.

Sleep tight!

Related:​ How To Sleep Better And Recover Like Elite Soccer Players​


02 Dry Yeast - Brewing Up a Storm of Benefits

I mix brewer's yeast in a daily shake. Research confirms that it has multiple benefits for our healthspan, and a heaped teaspoon a day (~10 g) goes a long way:

  • Rich in B-vitamins: Essential for energy metabolism, brain health, and reducing fatigue.
  • High Protein Content: Supports muscle maintenance and repair, which is crucial as muscle mass declines with age.
  • β-Glucans: Enhance immune response, potentially reducing the risk of infections and improving overall immune health.
  • Prebiotic Properties: It promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, improves digestion and nutrient absorption, and may reduce inflammation.
  • Improved Microbiota Composition: Helps maintain a balanced gut microbiota, linked to better metabolic and brain health.
  • Cholesterol Management: β-Glucans have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Blood Sugar Regulation: Improves insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels, which is beneficial for preventing or managing type 2 diabetes.

⇒ I accidentally discovered Brewer's yeast, but it appears to be a hidden gem of a supplement.

What does this mean for you? Add 10 grams of brewer's yeast powder to smoothies and juices or sprinkle over food - daily.

I often use NOW Brewer's Yeast - this one - link to Amazon (I'm not an affiliate).

Tip: If you can afford it, use non-roller-dried yeast, as the heat degrades the potency of some components. For the same reason, you are better off NOT using instant or fast-serve grains such as oats.

⇒ I buy NOW because it is nutritionally OK and not too expensive.

FYI: The "NOW Brewer's Yeast" product, being roller dried and debittered, retains many of its beneficial components, though there may be some loss in the potency of heat-sensitive nutrients like B-vitamins and certain proteins. Despite these potential reductions, the product remains a rich source of essential nutrients, including proteins, β-glucans, and minerals, making it a valuable dietary supplement.

Related: The Surprising Benefits of Black Tea Daily​​​

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03 Why Stiff Tendons Are A Good Thing For Your Knees

When we think of stiffness in our joints, it's not a good feeling. But stiff tendons, perhaps ironically, are a good thing—as long as they are also flexible and strong.

I read during the week that old-time strongmen and weightlifters strengthened their tendons with high-rep bodyweight exercises. This was because, quote: "Unlike muscles – which can get stronger easily due to the blood flow to them – tendons and ligaments require lots and lots of movement in order to get stronger; movements such as high-rep callisthenics moves, like pushups, rows, squats, lunges, and more."

I immediately thought this proposition made sense because kettlebell champions have tendons like steel cables and perform many repetitions with loads much lighter than, say, competitive powerlifters with barbells.

Then, I researched it. It turns out that there is an ongoing debate about whether low-load high-frequency (LLHF) resistance training or high-load low-frequency (HLLF) training is more effective for improving tendon health, particularly for over-50s.

For example, there is reliable research showing that heavy loads and low reps build strong, flexible and stiff tendons.

⇒ Tendon stiffness relates to resistance to stretching, strength relates to the ability to withstand high forces, and flexibility to return to its original shape without damage.

Tendons, particularly those of your quadriceps and hamstrings, play a crucial role in stabilising your knee joint. Strong and stiff tendons ensure that the knee joint remains stable during dynamic activities, reducing the risk of misalignment and injury, which are common causes of knee pain.

⇒ Flexible tendons improve proprioception, your body’s ability to sense its position and movement in space. Better proprioception aids in coordinating movements and avoiding positions that could strain your knee joint and cause pain. (This is also especially true of the tendons supporting your ankles).

What this means for you: You can have the best of both worlds at home by doing both high-load low-frequency exercises and low-load high-frequency exercises, even at home with no equipment. See the next item - #4.

⇒ At the gym, do low reps with a barbell or weighted bodyweight exercises, and high reps low load in a class such as Powerhour and keep your bar lightly loaded.

Related: Keep Your Tendons Healthy And Your Balance Will Look After Itself


04 At-Home Bodyweight Exercises for Knee Tendon Health

Our exercise of the week is... two for knee tendon health.

These two exercises will effectively target and improve the health of your knee tendons, promoting better mobility and reducing the risk of pain and injury.

What this means for you: Consistently do these, and your knees will thank you - they take about 5 minutes each:

  • Wall Sits (HLLR): 3-5 repetitions, hold for 20-30 seconds, 2-3 times per week.
  • Seated Leg Extensions (LLHF): 15-20 repetitions per leg, 3 sets, 3-4 times per week.

1. Wall Sits High Load Low Repetition (HLLR)

  1. Stand with your back against a wall and your feet about 2 feet away from it, hip-width apart.
  2. Slide down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground, forming a 90-degree angle at your knees.
  3. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds, then slide back up to the starting position.

Level-Up Suggestions:

  1. Increase Hold Time: Gradually increase the hold time by 10 seconds as your strength improves.
  2. Add Weights: Hold a weight plate or a pair of dumbbells to add resistance.

Tips for Correct Form and Posture:

  1. Knee Alignment: Ensure your knees are directly above your ankles and not extending past your toes.
  2. Back Position: Keep your back flat against the wall throughout the exercise.
  3. Even Weight Distribution: Distribute your weight evenly across both feet and keep your feet flat on the ground.

2. Seated Leg Extensions Low Load High Frequency (LLHF)

  1. Sit on a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Extend one leg out straight, lifting it until it is parallel to the ground.
  3. Hold for a second, then slowly lower it back down to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch legs.

Level-Up Suggestions:

  1. Increase Repetitions: Gradually increase the number of repetitions per set.
  2. Add Resistance: Use ankle weights to increase the load.

Tips for Correct Form and Posture:

  1. Sit Upright: Keep your back straight and shoulders back throughout the exercise.
  2. Control the Movement: Raise and lower your leg slowly to maintain control and engage the muscles effectively.
  3. Keep the Core Engaged: Tighten your abdominal muscles to support your lower back.

Related: How to Break Through Your Exercise Plateaus

Thanks for reading!

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>> My Latest Blog Post: Energise Your Golden Years: Boosting Your Desire to Exercise with Gut-Healthy Foods

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