Coach Kevin’s Korner: The Importance of Sleep

Sleep.  How much do you get?  A lack of sleep could be impacting you in ways you haven’t thought of.

An Underrated Factor

Are you constantly sore, tired, mentally foggy, not hitting those PRs you want, or not losing weight even though your diet is on point? If you answered yes to any one of those, consider sleep as a factor.  Sleep is one of the most important aspects to hit your goals and improve your overall health, but it is often neglected.

A Big Impact

An increasing body of evidence indicates that sleep plays a major role in performance, recovery, weight loss, cognition, and prevention against major diseases such as immune system failure, diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression, and memory loss. Most people don’t realize that their continuous sleep problems or lack of enough sleep can have a direct effect on personal performance, appearance, and chronic diseases. With the added everyday stress on top of working hard in the gym, we should consider that SLEEP is as important as nutrition and exercise for overall health and performance. This is especially true in the areas of weight management and recovery.

Weight Management

A lack of sleep can make it harder to lose weight.  Studies have shown that just one night of being sleep deprived can make someone as insulin resistant as a type 2 diabetic, which means faster aging and storing more body fat. That is just one night too. Just think about being sleep deprived for weeks, months, even years and it’s easy to see why lack of sleep can be a huge problem.

Another study showed that sleep deprivation is directly related to an inability to lose weight. People were put on the same exercise and diet program, but the test group that was sleep deprived (less than 6 hours a night) lost less weight and less body fat than the group who slept over 8 hours a night.

Recovery

Sleep is also an important factor in recovery.  The body is in a continual process of repair and revitalization, but this repair process peaks during sleep. Less sleep means less peak time for recovery.  Additionally, significant amounts (~95%) of hormones that aid in repair and growth are produced during sleep.

The most powerful, NON PHARMACOLOGICAL stimuli for growth hormones are SLEEP and EXERCISE. When sleep is deprived, the body perceives this as a stressor and lowers the amount of growth hormone secreted, which has a significant detrimental effect on muscle growth and repair.

Tips to Sleep Better

Fortunately, there are many small steps you can start taking today to improve and extend your sleep.

1. Avoid the screen – This is the #1 thing you can do immediately to improve the quality of your sleep. The artificial blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, or tv triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones and disorients your body’s natural preparation for sleep.
2. Get to bed at an appropriate time – The most significant time for hormonal secretions and recovery during sleep is between 10pm and 2am. To get the most rejuvenating effect out of your sleep, we should be sleeping during this time window.
3. Black out the room – Having light sources of any type (night lights, alarm clocks, tv, phones, outside lights, etc) can disrupt your sleep pattern. Our skin has receptors that can pick up light, and if there’s light in your bedroom, your body is picking it up and sending messages to your brain that can interfere with your sleep. The best thing to do is just have your room completely black while sleeping.
4. Have a caffeine curfew – Caffeine is a powerful nervous system stimulant, and if your nervous system is lit up from caffeine, getting high quality sleep is pretty impossible. Set a strict curfew to stop having any caffeine, for most people should be around 3 to 4 pm.
5. Get more sunlight during the day – Probably one of the most vital elements that induces great sleep is your body’s secretion of a hormone called melatonin. The production and secretion of melatonin is affected by sunlight exposure. Melatonin is produced by our brain and sends a signal to regulate our sleep/wake cycle in our body.

If you are working hard on other areas of your life, like nutrition and exercise, but aren’t getting enough sleep, you will probably not get the most out of your hard work.  Take that extra step and work on your sleep habits.  You may be surprised at how it impacts your nutrition, performance, and recovery!