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The connection between swimming, sleeping, and the water.

Guestpert : Kenneth Rippetoe Category : Health, Fitness, and Beauty Tags : sleep, swimming, Blue Mind, Mental Health, stress relief

Kenneth is the founder and head coach of One with the Water, a nonprofit swim school that offers need-based scholarships to children with special needs, adults, low-income families, and service-disabled Veterans. He is a certified US Paralympic Disabilities Swim Coach and a strength and conditioning coach.


As a swimmer, I take my sleep very seriously. As a human, my connection to the water and its transformative effect is undeniable. Sleep, combined with the power of water, work together on our brains to make us happier, healthier, more fulfilled individuals. 1) As a swimmer, what is your sleep pattern like? I sleep about 10 hours per day. Rest and recovery play a key part in both muscle regeneration and spiritual fitness! Part of those hours include at least one nap daily, and I start my day at 4:30 am meditating or reading.  There are necessary physiological changes that occur during sleep. First, critical hormone processes are happening during the sleep cycle, including an increase in anabolic (muscle-building) hormones, and a simultaneous lowering of catabolic (muscle-wasting) hormones. Second, irregular and unpredictable sleep patterns limit the recovery power of testosterone in your body. And finally, while we sleep, human growth hormones are being secreted in a pattern that lasts from 1.5-3.5 hours. When our sleep is disrupted, so are the benefits of this critical anabolic hormone. I take my sleep very seriously. 2) As a swim coach, does swimming help other people sleep better? If so, why? The National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll and found a strong correlation between proper sleep and exercise, finding that exercise does improve sleep, vital for health, productivity and an overall happier life. (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/media-center/national-sleep-foundation-poll-finds-exercise-key) We all know stress and anxiety may cause sleeping problems or make existing problems worse.  Extended aerobic swimming workouts release the natural compound endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals produced in your brain to combat those issues. Increased endorphin levels work to lower stress, increase pleasure, and reduce or manage pain. The release of endorphins do help to significantly lower anxiety and relieve depression. But alongside the brain boost, swimming incorporates the same alternating stretches and regular breathing patterns of many yoga and other relaxation practices. This helps to create a calming, meditative experience. 3) How would you describe the connection between sleeping, dreaming and water? According to Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, author of the national bestseller Blue Mind, good sleep is critical to good dreaming, and good dreaming is fundamental to creativity, learning, and memory. Studies continue to back this up, showing that REM sleep provides both the most vivid dreams and helps in the solving of complex mental and physical tasks. When looking at those three components from the metaphysical perspective, the connection remains, albeit in a less concrete fashion. Still, as Dr. Nichols writes, “indeed, as a spiritual element of the natural world, there seems to be something particular about water that permeates humanity’s consciousness.” (Blue Mind, pg. 235). And water continues to be one of the most common elements of the dream world with a deep connection to both emotion and the subconscious. While dream interpretation lies somewhat outside the scope of our expertise, our organization, One With The Water, knows that mastering the water creates a transformation in the mind of our students, a shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. People with the growth mindset learn to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, and intentionally seek out new challenges. They have learned that circumstances matter less, and what they are made of matters more. Whether waking or sleeping, the transformative power of water cannot be denied.