Alright, so as I’m sure you will have heard, sleep is damn important and most of us don’t get enough of it. At Hall Personal Training, we like to promote a healthy life all round, we’re not just about lifting heavy weights in the gym. So, I would like to give you all a few bits of information on why sleep is so important, and a few tips to try and improve our sleep in the 24-hour world we live in. As a personal trainer, I couldn’t let this opportunity go without looking at how it will impact performance in the gym either!
Why do we need sleep?
We need sleep for a number of different reasons. A key one is the release of hormones and chemicals that maintain homoeostasis (equilibrium of the body). It allows us to rest and recover our body as well as our mind. Our bodies function in patterns known as “circadian rhythms” (behavioural, physiological and biochemical rhythms) and the circadian rhythm for sleep is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (an area of the brain just behind the optic chasm also known as the “master clock”).
If we don’t get enough sleep, we are at risk of:
- Memory and cognitive impairments
- Decreased performance and alertness
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Psychiatric problems, including depression and mood disorders
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Mental impairment
- Fetal and childhood growth retardation
- Poor quality of life
These are just a few of the problems, and issues will vary depending on the type of sleep deprivation, whether it is partial sleep deprivation, long term deprivation or short term deprivation. For example, it has been shown in numerous studies that partial sleep deprivation will have a much greater effect on mood than on cognitive or motor functions.
Will a lack of sleep make me put on weight?
A lack of sleep can also lead to weight gain or difficulty in losing weight. One reason for this is that a lack of sleep can lead to a reduction in Leptin (a hormone that makes us feel full) and an increase in Ghrelin (a hormone that makes us feel hungry) thus leading a person to eat more during the day. As well as this chemical stuff, we should also be aware of the psychological side effects that may lead to weight gain. We know that a lack of sleep can lead to increased stress levels, which can often lead to eating more as a coping mechanism. Also, most of us will be much less likely to drag ourselves to the gym when we’re feeling sleepy.
Can lack of sleep affect me gaining muscle?
Not getting enough sleep can also affect those of us who are looking to put on a bit of muscle mass. This is because sleep is when we get most of our muscle repair and it is also when we increase our production of Growth Hormone (GH). An insufficient amount of sleep will also lead to an increase in cortisol and a reduction in testosterone – all bad things if you’re looking to increase your lean muscle mass!
So how much sleep is enough sleep?
The right amount of sleep will vary from person to person, however, if you can get somewhere between 7-9 hours as an adult you won’t go far wrong.
Any tips on improving sleep?
The best tip for the majority of bad sleepers would be to take a break from electronic screens before bed. These screens produce blue light which our brains interpret in the same way as daylight. This prevents the release of melatonin, a hormone which helps send us to sleep. I’d also suggest that you should try and be in as strict a routine as possible with regards to bedtime and the time you get up. Like I said before, our bodies like rhythms and patterns. You'll find the newer version of the iphone will have a 'bedtime' mode that when enabled will place an orange tint to the screen filtering out blue light.
Something we highly recommend to our clients is the desktop plug-in - f.lux. It's free to download and will filter out the blue screen light that emits from your laptop or computer; ideal for students and night owls.
“Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta-analysis.” Pilcher JJ, Huffcutt AI. (1996)
“Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index” Shahrad Taheri, Ling Lin,Diane Austin, Terry Young, and Emmanuel Mignot
“Growth hormone and cortisol secretion in relation to sleep and wakefulness.” J R Davidson, H Moldofsky, and F A Lue