Sleep: Why is it so important?

‘Why is sleep so important?’ you ask.  Well, we spend one third of our lives sleeping.  The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) tells us, “sleep helps us thrive by contributing to a healthy immune system, and can also balance our appetites by helping to regulate levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness. So when we’re sleep deprived, we may feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.” (1)

As an athlete trying to juggle my work and training life, recovery and sleep is very important to prevent fatigue and injury.  According to the NSF’s report, their recommendations for appropriate sleep duration for an adult is 7-9 hours (2) per day.  Often it’s difficult to get a perfect working-training balance, for whatever reason, working overtime, training early, travelling for work, etc, which can lead to sleep deprivation.  I have suffered fatigue and lethargy at the end of the week when I have only managed five hours of sleep per night.  If you think about it, missing out on two hours of sleep per night, seven nights in a row equates to 14 hours of missed sleep per week, which is equivalent to two complete nights of sleep.  That’s quite substantial, especially if this is continued over a number of weeks.  Now that’s tiring!

The NSF also claims that, “if sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. Then we wake up less prepared to concentrate and make decisions.” (1)

Missing out on two hours of sleep per night, seven nights in a row equates to 14 hours of missed sleep per week, which is equivalent to two complete nights of sleep.

Sleep is an important aspect of recovery so if you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s time to make a conscious effort to get that recommended 7-9 hours.  Keep in mind that your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle is regulated by your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal cycles over approximately 24 hours.  Your circadian rhythm can influence sleep, hormone release, body temperature and heart rate, blood pressure and digestive functions (3).  Try to get into a habit of going to sleep and waking up at a regular time to keep that circadian rhythm in time.  Happy resting!

by Janine Jungfels – Pushys Sponsored Rider

References

  1. National Sleep Foundation (NSF) 2017, What happens when you sleep?, accessed 3 March 2017, < https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/what-happens-when-you-sleep>
  2. Hirshkowitz et al. 2015, National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary, Sleep Health, vol 1, 40-43 <http://www.sleephealthjournal.org/article/S2352-7218(15)00015-7/pdf)>
  3. National Institute of Health (NIGMS) 2012, Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet, <https://www.nigms.nih.gov/Education/Pages/Factsheet_CircadianRhythms.aspx>

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