Aside from the exciting Sox vs. Cardinal baseball that went on last week leading up to the World Series, the drama surrounding Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Byrd caught my attention in particular. Byrd acknowledged using human growth hormone for a medical condition, but what got my eye wasn't related to the fact HGH is a banned drug in professional baseball (since 2005) without a doctor's prescription. It's about something else I read that I bet most people didn't stop to think about.
For starters, Byrd admits he took the substance on the advice of three different doctors treating him for a deficiency in this hormone. His pituitary, the gland responsible for making human growth hormone in the body, allegedly isn't up to speed. But I'm not going to comment on any of that; don't look to me to speculate on his medical records, needs, or the fact his taking HGH is under fire in a sport constantly scrutinized for illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs. No, I'll leave that to the sports journalists, news commentators, and pundits.
It was what Byrd wrote about unwittingly that pricked my ears right up: ..."the sporadic periods of fatigue and lack of sleep have really bothered me on the baseball field..." Clearly, Byrd is under-slept and his pituitary is under-performing. A connection?
I can't imagine what it must be like to be a top professional athlete or under the pressure of a baseball player like Byrd who can make or break an entire season -- not to mention a chance to win the World Series -- for teammates and fans. It doesn't surprise me that sleep gets thrown out the window. But here's a friendly reminder: human growth hormone, a key ingredient we all need routinely to grow new cells, repair tissues, recover our bodies from the daily grinds, and essentially be (and feel) rejuvenated, gets released naturally by the body during sleep. It's not so easy to herald this secret ingredient to youth and vitality during our waking hours.
In my latest book, Beauty Sleep, I refer to human growth hormone as "Dr. GH" because it's as close to having a cosmetic surgeon on call (and in your pocket) as you're going to get in your life -- without any cutting, nipping, or real tucking necessary. A free asset in all of our bodies that can truly work wonders when we nourish and supports its functions. Which starts and ends with a good night's sleep.
I think we tend to forget about Dr. GH in our daily lives as we check off our To Dos and sacrifice sleep for seemingly getting more done. We resort to countless (need I mention pricey) beauty products, fad diets, day spas, drugs, and over-the-counter lotions and potions. We down too much caffeine, too, as we chase the next source of high energy. All in pursuit of youth. In pursuit of vibrant health. In pursuit of home runs.
My message is clear: You've got home runs lying in wait deep inside. Byrd's latest media frenzy should be a reminder to us all to get our shut-eye. Youth and performance is not about injections, pills, and potions. It's about tapping our inner source of endurance that's already in circulation when we surrender to good sleep. Too bad not all game plans call for sound sleep.
Follow Dr. Michael J. Breus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thesleepdoctor