Time to Improve Your Z’s
On average, we spend 33% of our lives sleeping. Regardless of how close you are to that percentage, no other aspect in our lives will come close to the time we spend asleep. With close to 1/3 of our lives spent sleeping, you can imagine the importance and vitality of that time. Sleep is the most underestimated and disregarded aspect of recovery/performance both mentally and physically. It is recommended that we all need a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night. When we do not reach at least 8 hours for multiple nights in a row, many natural processes within our body are not able to perform at their highest level and dramatically impact our ability to function the next day. What makes our time sleeping so valuable and how can we optimize it for our benefit?
Prime Time for Recovery
Many athletes set aside days each week specific for recovery. This usually includes rest from their workouts and increased time for mobility/flexibility. However, all of us have very specific time every single day that our bodies use for recovery. The time we spend asleep is the most vital time for rejuvenation and recovery within our bodies. Here are some of the most important affects of not getting enough sleep:
- Heart: During the day, stresses and hectic schedules lead to a higher heart rate and blood pressure. While you sleep, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. This allows your heart to recover and maintain a healthy blood pressure and heart rate for the following days. If you don’t give your heart this recovery time, the stress on the heart muscle continues to increase leading to higher risk for heart problems.
- Immune System: The function of your immune system decreases when running on a lack of sleep. A recent study involved 153 people who all voluntarily exposed themselves to a cold virus. The people who slept 7 hours or less were three times more likely to get sick.
- Muscles: Muscle repair and growth drastically slows down when experiencing a lack of sleep. The cortisol hormone breaks down muscles. When you’re sleeping, your body releases melatonin which is responsible for balancing out levels of cortisol and aiding in relaxation. A decreased amount of melatonin results in high levels of cortisol leading to ineffective muscle repair and growth. Along with cortisol, your body releases 80% of its production of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH) during your sleep cycle. This hormone also works to repair and build muscle. When the production of this hormone is cut off due to shortened sleep cycles, the repair and construction of muscle growth is negatively affected.
Weight Gain and Mental Performance
- Body Composition: Two hormones within our body that work to regulate our hunger are leptin and gherlin. Leptin makes us feel full and gherlin increases feelings of hunger. Our sleep cycle requires these two hormones. These hormones are thrown off course and lead to a skewed perception of hunger when we do not achieve an adequate amount of sleep. While lack of sleep has never been directly proven to lead to weight gain, many studies have shown a correlation between lack of sleep and obesity.
- Brain: Studies have repeatedly shown that a lack of sleep leads to decreased blood flow to certain areas of the brain as well as reduced metabolism in the body. These two things heavily impact the effectiveness of the brains functions and behaviors. The Amygdale is the portion of the brain that is responsible for emotional control. In a recent study, the individuals that were not receiving an adequate amount of sleep showed 60% higher levels of activity within the Amygdale than those with a healthy amount of sleep. Additionally, the connection between portions of the brain are greatly affected. The disconnection inhibits healthy moderation and regulation of activities within the brain. The hippocampus is another portion of the brain that is negatively affected by a lack of sleep. The hippocampus is responsible for storing new memories. The ability to memorize and recall facts are dramatically affected when this portion of the brain is unable to function at its highest level.
How to Sleep on the Right Side of the Bed
Here are some tips on how to achieve long, restful nights of sleep.
- Create a routine to wind down before bed and begin that routine at least an hour before you want to fall asleep
- Eliminate consumption of any caffeine in the afternoon/evening
- Keep your sleeping space cool and dark
- Increase your water consumption during the day
- Aim to fall asleep around the same time each night
- Maintain a regular exercise schedule each week
If you try a couple of these things, we are certain that your sleep will improve! Good luck and sleep tight!
As always, keep moving, keep pushing, and keep pressing. Your body will love you for it.
- “Sleep: Your Life Depends On It.” CrossFit Rockwall. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.
- Roza, Written By Melissa. “The Importance of Sleep.” Crossfit Sanitas. N.p., 09 Nov. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.
- “Stop Sabotaging Your Results: The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Muscle Growth.” Muscle Building Foods HQ. N.p., 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.