On the one hand, it’s intuitive: our performance in the gym (and life outside the gym) suffers if we have not been getting enough high-quality sleep.
On the other hand, I hear it all the time: people admitting to medium- and long-term sleep deprivation.
Their reasons are endless and completely understandable. There’s no doubt about it—modern-day life is filled with no shortage of responsibilities, obligations, relationships, and opportunities that can create days that overflow with things to do and a shortage of time in which to do it.
Something’s gotta give, right? And all too often that something is sleep.
However, the risks of neglecting our bodies’ need for rest and recovery are significant and numerous:
- Sleep deprivation results in decreased sprinting and pacing abilities in runners, as well as depleted glycogen stores in muscles—and when glycogen stores are depleted, muscular activity is inhibited.
- Sleep deprivation is correlated with decreased performance on both upper and lower body strength training movements, and the decreased performance worsened with subsequent nights of poor sleep.
- Sleep deprivation interferes with the pituitary gland’s production of growth hormone, which inhibits muscular growth and recovery. According to the linked article, “Growth hormone deficiency is associated with increased obesity, loss of muscle mass and reduced exercise capacity.”
- Sleep deprivation has also been correlated with an increase in cortisol and a decrease in testosterone, both of which can result in decreased performance.
- Sleep deprivation has been connected with decreased immune response and life expectancy as well as increased risk of hypertension, obesity, mood disorders, and diabetes.
- Sleep deprivation has been connected to mistakes and accidents, from medical errors to Chernobyl and from car accidents to oil spills.
Some of those links do require sign-in information to access the full-text versions of the studies: for those of you without access, another article that links together many of these risks into one piece can be found here.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: the time you spend sleeping is an investment in your health and well-being, and if you don’t make the time to sleep you’ll end up having to make the time to be sick and/or injured… and for your athletic progress to be stalled.
If you or someone you know is having trouble getting adequate sleep—or if you’d just like to know more about the relationship between sleep and health—I’d like to direct you all to the free sleep information portal at http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/portal/.
At that site, you will find valuable info compiled by Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine that includes articles, videos, and links to further information.
Don’t leave your health, recovery, and well-being to chance: seek out accurate information and, if needed, take steps towards improving the quality and quantity of your sleep.
As I say to my personal training clients, “Rest isn’t a break from the program: rest is part of the program.” Self-care doesn’t just take place in the gym: all aspects of our lives are capable of helping us move towards improved health.
--Lore, Personal Trainer at Leap-Fenway