You can only perform to the best of your abilities when the body is well rested. On the flip side, when the body is poorly rested, performance plummets. People who suffer from a lack of, or poor quality sleep are at an increased risk to experience decreased brain function, hormonal imbalances, increased risk of heart disease, decreased productivity and performance, poor immune and insulin responses.
Sleep plays a crucial role in the repair and maintenance of all systems of the human body. Unfortunately, a huge number of people these days do not get the amount of sleep necessary (7-9 hours a night) to support a healthy body and mind.
Most people would think that we only sleep because we’re tired and it somehow gives us magic energy to get us though the next day. But your body is actually working very hard to repair, recover, build, strengthen, grow and defend itself. It’s during sleep that the real work of progress begins. Sleep is a vitally productive process even if you aren’t moving or interacting.
While you rest, the body begins its work. Like a factory, several processes occur all at once and involve multiple systems:
- Your brain will “clean house.” Where cerebral spinal fluid will flush throughout the brain, cleaning out waste products from cells.
- Breathing and heart rates slow and blood pressure decreases.
- Hormones are released that aid in repairing tissues.
It makes sense that if the body is severely under-rested, these valuable and necessary processes are subsequently disrupted. The body then cannot adequately repair tissues and blood vessels, produce and release hormones efficiently, or remove waste. If sleep suffers, there are knock-on effects for the rest of the body.
When the body is sleep deprived, the brain craves food, and doesn’t care where it comes from. The hormones responsible for regulating hunger and satiety become unbalanced. Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increases, while leptin (the satiety hormone) decreases. Therefore, caloric intake increases, and caloric expenditure decreases due to lack of motivation from mental and physical fatigue. This will eventually lead to unwanted weight gain.
Also, poor sleep can result in higher-than-normal blood-sugar levels because a tired body is unable to effectively respond to insulin. If poor sleep is chronic, the development of metabolic disorders is very likely to happen.
Exercise and Sleep
The connection between exercise performance and the amount of sleep you get cannot be overlooked. When you are short on sleep, it’s quite common to find yourself struggling to maintain the usual level of exercise that you would normally operate at.
Since sleep is the main time the body recovers and repairs itself, it’s also when you will be rebuilding your torn muscle tissues. Without this recovery time, you’re going to go into your next exercise session at a disadvantage, and at a higher chance of getting injured. There is an increased release in daytime cortisol (often referred to your stress hormone) levels. Cortisol will work to break down your body’s tissues.
Therefore, in terms of maintaining and building lean muscle mass, keeping unwanted body fat at bay, and just wanting to live a long and healthy life, free of as many complications as possible – a good sleep schedule should be right in the top category of your priorities list.