By: Christy Gasparino
When trying to achieve performance or weight loss goals people generally adapt their exercise training first, then looking to nutrition, and if at all, sleep is the last element to fix. Sleep not only helps you get through the work day, but it also increases your energy level, improve your overall health, reduce risk of premature death, enhance your immune system, make you more mentally alert, and improve your physical and mental performance. Long-term sleep deprivation can have adverse effects. With the absence of sleep we have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and cancer. As if that wasn’t enough, it can be detrimental to your muscle recovery, so all that hard work in the gym can be sacrificed. Recovery doesn’t end at grabbing a protein shake after the gym. Sleep should be a vital part of your training program as well.
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. Cotisol 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.
Appetite can be affected by sleep deprivation by a change in hormonal balance. Ghrelin is the hormone that makes you feel hungry, while leptin is the hormone that makes you feel full. When you don’t get enough sleep there is an increase in ghrelin and a decrease in leptin, which causes an increase in appetite. Lack of sleep also contributes to late-night cravings. When your brain is exhausted it doesn’t know if it is sleep deprived or starving for glucose, all it knows is that it is low in energy.
Naps can be helpful in the short term by boosting energy levels, but doesn’t provide all the other benefits of a good nights rest. You aren’t asleep long enough to get all of the hormone responses. Your body needs around 8 hours of sleep per night, some people may even need more depending on their activity level. To ensure you get a good night sleep determine what time you need to wake up and work backwards from there to figure out your bedtime. Give yourself an hour before that time to start to wind down. You can do low-key household chores like dishes, but nothing too mentally or physically taxing. During that hour allot 15 minutes to change into bedclothes, brush your teeth, etc. Once you are in bed avoid looking at your phone. When checking emails, or whatever it is you may do on your phone, can increase your mental activity and thus keep you awake longer. Also, your phone gives off enough light to miscue the brain and promote wakefulness so its best to shut it down before getting into bed.
With all this being said, sleep should be looked at as our foundation. Sleep and proper nutrition gives us the tools to be fueled properly for our workouts and gives us the ability to recover. So when looking to take your training program to the next level don’t overlook sleep. Many people may say that they just don’t have enough time in the day. Take a look at your schedule, do you have time for a couple hours of TV after work or playing on your phone or tablet. Prioritize what is most important to you. If TV comes before sleep then you might have to reevaluate your commitment level towards your goals.
Dattilo, M., Antunes, H., Medeiros, A. (2011, April 10). Sleep and Muscle Recovery. Retrieved May 29, 2015, from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/
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Why is Sleep Important? (2012, February 22). Retrieved May 29, 2015, from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topic/