Why Adequate Sleep is so Important

By: Coach Gannon

Hey Reviver Nation!! So as you have heard each one of us coaches preach, it is about what you do the 23 hours outside of the gym that really is going to affect your fitness journey. This includes your Sleep, Stress, and Nutrition. Today, I wanted to spend a little time focusing on how your sleep affects your body’s function. It seems like in our current society sleep has unfortunately become a luxury and when a person attempts to make it a priority, they are often looked at as being lazy or weak. The ironic part is, people who don’t get adequate sleep are actually becoming weaker, and lazier because their body is not recovering properly. Even if we looked past the compromised protection and increased risk of degenerative disease and early death afforded by poor sleep, inadequate sleep negatively affects our ability to build strength, lose weight and gain muscle.

Proper sleep helps to regulate a growth hormone called cortisol, cortisol is a steroid hormone, that when released into the blood, is transported all around the body. Almost every cell contains receptors for cortisol, so cortisol can have lots of different actions depending on which sort of cells it is acting upon. Cortisol levels are suppose to be at their highest level right when you wake up, and then taper off throughout the day, ending with low levels at night. If someone does not get adequate sleep, these levels can start to fluctuate and become erratic. This can cause some negative effects on the body including inhibiting control of the body’s blood sugar levels (which regulate metabolism and fat storage), decreasing anti-inflammatory properties (which help with recovery in the muscles so you can train the next day), influencing memory formation, controlling salt and water balance (bloating, cramping, and dehydration), and influencing blood pressure (which can affect the heart). Simply missing one hour of sleep per night than what’s optimal for you prompts your brain to secrete cortisol and shift your body away from muscle building and toward fat storage through higher levels of stress and lower levels of testosterone. So as you could imagine as these inadequate hours of sleep build up over days, weeks, and even years, our imbalances become so great that the deficits cannot be made up through diet, and fitness alone.

A study done by The University of Cambridge showed that even in the healthiest men, and women a poor night’s sleep is seen to result in temporary glucose intolerance (insulin resistance). If your body does not produce enough insulin or your cells are resistant to the effects of insulin, you may develop hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which can cause long-term complications if the blood sugar levels stay elevated for long periods of time. In fact, consistent sleep deprivation has been seen to result in an 18-20% decrease in leptin, which is a hormone produced by fat cells that helps in the regulation of body fat. Leptin also interacts with areas of the brain that control hunger and behavior (and signals that the body has had enough to eat). It was found that there was a 24-28% increase in ghrelin, which is a hormone that is produced and released by primarily the stomach. Ghrelin is termed the ‘hunger hormone’ because it stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage.

Sleep can affect so many functions in your body. In order to make changes in our sleep habits, we must first figure out what might be preventing us from getting adequate sleep in the first place. To help with this, I have attached a video below where Dr. Charles Czeisler explains why we’re sleeping less than we did a generation ago, and the damaging effects it’s having on our health.