SLEEPING (is) BEAUTY (full)
Sleep is of utmost importance for recovery, as well as for the general health of the brain, muscle and body. Ever feel shattered after a long day in work, but still manage to push through one more episode of your favourite Netflix show? This could be one of your most harmful habits. Sleep should be prioritised before all else.
In the modern world, there are so many factors that contribute to less sleep, such as long commutes, night shifts, but also artificial lighting, such as mobile phone screens, computer screens, and TV screens being on hand so easy for almost everyone these days.
Let’s start from the top. The Brain. Staying awake for long periods of time can literally kill off neurons that are essential for cognition and alertness. It also causes cell loss which leads to negative and exaggerated emotions and thoughts, and even memory loss. Have you ever sat in work after a sleepless night and struggled to focus on anything? This is the result of cell loss. The long-term effect of this is frightening. According to studies, people with insomnia are twice as likely to develop dementia, compared to those who have adequate amount of sleep.
Training well, eating well, but just not getting those results you want? If this sounds familiar to you, add ‘enough sleep’ to your checklist, and see if you still have three ticks. Probably not. Sleep is key for your ability to grow lean muscle mass as it helps the functions of organisms. Simply put, a lack of sleep causes hormonal changes which leads to an increase in cortisol (ever felt stressed after a few days of no sleep?) and therefore a reduction in the testosterone produced by the body. Muscle cannot grow without testosterone.
Some studies have shown a direct correlation between lack of sleep and weight gain. This is because sleep plays a pivotal role in regulating the appetite hormones (leptin and ghrelin), as well as the body’s metabolism speed. The participants who regularly got 5 hours sleep or less were much more likely to gain weight, and generally weighed more than those who regularly hit 8 hours.
Had a heavy weekend, or a highly stressful week in work, and then you get knocked down with a cold? This is because sleep deprivation increases the white blood cell count in the body, which is what happens when we get ill. Sleep loss can contribute to an overall decrease in the efficiency of the immune system and metabolic function.
Last, but certainly not least, adequate sleep plays a massive role in and individual’s blood pressure. When we sleep, our blood pressure drops by 10 to 20%, so the less sleep we have, the higher our average 24-hour blood pressure will be.
So, the take home message from me today is, if you have to be up at 6 in the morning, and it’s already nearing midnight, resist the temptation to watch that next episode (Netflix’s auto play of next episodes does not help, I know!) of your favourite show, and go hit the hay.
Thanks for reading,