By Michael Simmer BS CSCS LMT FST

When someone decides they want to improve their health, they first begin with an exercise routine, maybe add in some more cardio or meet with a trainer to help guide them to their weight loss goals. This will be followed by working on getting the nutrition part in check, things as simple as not eating fast food or leaving dessert out of the meal, or taking the next step and meeting with a nutritionist to get a plan to follow. While these steps are great and are needed there is always one important element that most people leave out of the equation, and that is looking at their sleep habits. Sleep is often the forgotten but integral part of a healthy lifestyle, without proper sleep it can be hard to lose weight and you can even lose muscle mass and tone due to poor sleep habits. 

Reduced sleep time has been linked to an increased risk of being overweight or obese. Continuing poor sleep, or a lack of sleep, increases signals to the brain to eat, and decreases signals telling the brain that enough food has been eaten. When we get less sleep the hormone cortisol increases which can increase cravings for food. Lack of sleep can play a role in hormone release, glucose regulation and cardiovascular function, as well as being a risk factor for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Patel and Hu (2008) published a study that looked at sleep duration and excess weight gain, they reported an association between sleep length and weight gain. Sleep supports healthy growth and development. It boosts muscle mass by helping repair damaged cells and tissues. During sleep, growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor are all released to aid in protein synthesis. With sleep deprivation, these hormones decrease and myostatin and cortisol increase. Testosterone increases strength and sized of skeletal muscle, increases force production potential and muscle mass, and promotes protein synthesis. Cortisol on the other hands converts amino acids into carbohydrates and inhibits protein synthesis. This increase in cortisol and decrease in testosterone results in protein degradation and muscle atrophy. With a lack of sleep, you also see a drop-in muscle recovery, with human growth hormone being released later in the sleep cycle those who do not reach this stage will not receive the same aid in recovery as someone who does reach appropriate levels of sleep and therefore training at peak capacity is limited and muscle recovery is cut short.

Several studies using collegiate athletes have been done with regards to how sleep impacts performance on and off the field and those studies showed that when an athlete goes from getting a normal amount of sleep 6-8 hours and increased it to getting 9=10 hours performance would reach peak levels for the athletes. Another study using Stanford football players was done where the players were on a restricted sleep schedule and all of the players had decreases in their shuttle times across the board, and reported to having more daytime fatigue. Lack of sleep is also effecting adolescents as well, with children getting fewer hours of sleep and spending more time watching TV or playing video games production level in school dwindles as does participation in youth sports, Children who do not get enough sleep are reported to be less likely to want to participate in any type of active activity and more time will be spent watching TV. 

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