Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Most Important Activity for Performance...

With both of us working primarily with collegiate athletes the topic of sleep, or lack there of, is one that comes up often.  It's often recommended to get your 8-9 hrs of sleep each night, For most this is easier said than done, right? But why is sleep so important and why does it need to be a staple in your training regimen?

Sleep is probably one of the most overlooked areas of human performance.  I'm sure all of you have experienced that feeling of being dazed and confused after a night of terrible sleep or none at all (especially for those of you who have kids).  What you may not know, is that a lack of sleep can have a signifcant impact on performance. Research has shown that it actually may not be detrimental to maximal performance; meaning if you were to stay up all night you could still probably perform maximal effort exercises (i.e. sprints or max lifts) just as well as you could after a full nights rest.  However, sub-maximal efforts or long duration exercises seem to be affected by the lack of sleep.  Sleep or a lack there of also seems to negatively influence certain hormonal patterns.  For example, sleep appears to be one of the most potent stimulators of growth hormone (GH) production.  Growth hormone is a major player in protein synthesis which can lead to increases in muscle and bone mass and assist with other recovery processes.  GH levels seem to reach their peak about 4 hours after the onset of sleep and slowly decline throughout the night/day.  Therefore if you go a night without sleep or "good sleep" you will miss out on this increase in GH.  Another hormone that is affected by sleep is cortisol.  Cortisol is often referred to as the "stress" hormone and is also known for being a catabolic hormone which means it can lead to tissue (i.e. muscle) breakdown.  Small increases in cortisol are normal and we have fluctuating levels naturally throughout the day, however chronic sleep deprivation results in constantly elevated cortisol levels which is NOT ideal for someone looking to gain muscle mass and properly recover from training.  Elevated cortisol levels are highly correlated with a lack of sleep; meaning the more you don't sleep, the higher your cortisol levels will likely be which can be detrimental to performance.   Not only do these hormonal changes negatively impact performance but they can have detrimental effects of body composition as well.  Elevated cortisol levels also mack you more prone to gaining body fat.  And it that's not bad enough, a lack of sleep can also increase insulin resistance which is a condition than can lead to Type II diabetes if continued over time.  This will also set you up for possible weight gain and trouble maintaining your figure.

These are just a few of the side-effects that result from sleep deprivation and the resulting impact on the body as it relates to performance and recovery.  There is a long list of other side-effects, including psychological, physical and emotional effects that are also related to a lack of sleep that we don't have time to get into today.  Basically, sleep is a time for your body to rest, recover, and repair itself for the next day of activities. 

Without out, you are setting yourself up for injury, diminished performance and potential weight gain.  So make sure to plan ahead and get your 8 hours a night!

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