We all know sleep is important. It is essential for our bodies to function properly and just as important as eating healthy and exercising. When you sleep, your brain signals your body to release hormones and compounds that help decrease risk for health conditions, manage your hunger levels, maintain proper immune function and retain memory. But, did you know your sleep could be effecting your fitness goals and your gains in the gym?
Bodybuilders are constantly looking for new and effective ways to gain muscle mass. The latest supplements, new training programs and diets. While these are all important for building muscle and making gains, the most important factor of all may be your sleep. Even the most sophisticated training routines, diets and supplements will not compensate for insufficient rest. Sleep is the best and only way (in some cases) people can get that rest.
Professor Michael Colgan went as far as to say: even if your training and nutrition program can straight for the mouth of God almighty, without adequate rest your body will fail to adapt. During sleep, growth hormone is produced and protein synthesis occurs, if protein is consumed prior to sleep. These are just a couple of the many benefits sleep can provide for bodybuilders. Along with energy consumption reduction and brain cell restoration.
When you get 8-10 hours of sleep per night it has similar effects to fasting and is catabolic to muscle growth. Eating just prior to sleeping, can help to reverse this process and increase protein synthesis. A process that does occurs under conditions of sleep in the intestinal tract, not the muscles. Our bodies actually break muscle down under these conditions to provide us with amino acids during this time of starvation. Eating protein before you go to bed is crucial in offsetting this.
Our bodies also release human growth hormone under conditions of sleep. In men, 60-70% of daily growth hormone secretion occurs during early sleep is typically when the deepest sleep cycles occur. Poor sleep quality can negatively impact the level of human growth hormone in people. A hormone that has a profound effect on muscle growth and physical wellbeing. Research suggests that during REM sleep the body is actually able to restore organs, bones and tissue. It can also replenish immune cells and circulate human growth hormone.
It doesn't end there! Those with a short sleep duration tend to weigh more than those who get adequate amounts of sleep. So much so, that short sleep duration is one of the biggest risk factors for obesity. One extensive review study showed that children and adults with short sleep durations were 89% and 55% more likely to become obese. This effect that sleep has on weight gain is believed to be mediated by many factors, including hormones and motivation to exercise.
Not only that, but studies have shown that sleep-deprived people have a bigger appetite and tend to consume more calories. This disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation. This includes higher levels of ghrelin, an appetite stimulating hormone, and reduced levels of leptin, an appetite suppressing hormone.
Beyond muscle gain, weight gain and appetite, sleep is essential for top physical performance. If you deprive yourself of sleep in can cause daytime fatigue, making you less likely and less motivated to exercise. This, along with the fact that you will be more likely to get tired earlier during physical activity, makes sleep vital to perform at your best. One study done on 15 men found that the amount and intensity of physical activity decreased among sleep-deprived participants.
Luckily, getting more sleep may be the trick to improving your athletic performance! In fact, a study where college basketball players were asked to spend 10 hours in bed each night for five to seven weeks found that they became faster, reaction times improved, accuracy increased and fatigue levels decreased. Now thats an easy all natural way to boost performance for sure!
How much sleep is enough? The healthy amount of sleep for the average adult is around seven to eight hours each night. Research from the United Kingdom and Italy analyzed data from 16 separate studies conducted over 25 years. It covered more than 1.3 million people and more than 100,000 deaths. These findings were published in the journal Sleep and found that those who slept for less than six hours a night were 12% more likely to experience premature death. The contrast though was that people who slept for more than eight to nine hours per night had an even higher risk, at 30% more likely to experience premature death. Researchers also found that those who reduced their sleep time from seven hours to five hours or less had 1.7 times the risk of death from all causes.
Sleep is like Goldilocks and her porridge, it has to be just right. Too little or too much can lead to many health issues and put a halt on your fitness goals. So, take the natural path to managing your weight, muscle growth and performance by simply getting enough sleep. Make sure you get seven to eight hours every night and you will be one step closer to a healthier, more fit version of yourself, the way mother nature intended!