Reading through the many blogs I look over periodically, I came across an awesome article about SLEEP, posted by Amara. Here is the blog post they put up, Credit to Amara and a few other sources to be listed at the end of the article …
Sleep like a CAVEMAN – the many benefits of proper rest
When it comes to the Paleo lifestyle, most people do a very good job of watching what they eat so their body can reap the benefits of reduced inflammation and numerous health benefits. But there is one area of the Paleo lifestyle that is often overlooked: sleep. This is part one of a two part series that will go over the benefits of sleep and how everyone can improve their sleep habits and reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
Sleep and recovery has been studied at great lengths over the ages. Recovery takes two main stages: short-term and long-term recovery. Short-term recovery refers to the period that begins immediately after an intense workout, much like the WODs we conquer in CrossFit. This stage lasts for hours and even days after our workouts, and it is the period in which our bodies replenish energy stores and restore the liquids lost during exercise. We also undergo protein synthesis in this stage, which is how our bodies rebuild and repair muscles and soft tissues while removing the built up lactic acid. The long-term recovery period is simply everything beyond the short-term period. CrossFit workouts are designed with long-term rest in mind: it gives athletes well-rounded workouts that cycle to avoid over training muscle groups and prescribe a “three on one off” regimen to give athletes’ bodies enough time to recover. And, of course, the long-term recovery period includes sleep.
All of the studies done over the years point to the same conclusion: our bodies do not perform at their best without proper sleep. A study analyzed 30 years of data from the National Football League (NFL) and found that teams that traveled three time zones to play night games had their performance greatly suffer from the interruption in the sleep and exercise patterns. The conclusion was stunning: these team that had their sleep and exercise patterns disrupted were 67% more likely to lose.
A study done at the University of Chicago by Eve Van Cauter, Ph. D., studied the sleep patterns of 18-27 year old men. The study started these men with 8 hours of sleep per night and steadily decreased the number of hours of sleep to the point that the subjects received only 4 hours of sleep each night. The conclusion was just as definitive: as the subjects got less sleep, there was a fast and clear decline in their performance. Their bodies were unable to produce glucose as efficiently and they exhibited higher cortisol levels.
Finally, a study by sleep researcher Rowan Minnion, CEO of Blonyx Biosciences Inc., showed the importance of sleep as it relates to growth hormone. Minnion found that one night of poor sleep will affect a person’s mental and physical performance, but the affects will be limited. Repeated nights of poor sleep will have a much greater impact with last effects. As Minnion put it, “growth hormone is absolutely vital to recovery from exercise, and without sleep, you are simply starving your body of it.”
How Sleep Helps You Recover
Said simply, our bodies haven’t evolved much since the days of our caveman ancestors. Much as our bodies are still primed to consume and run on the basic foods our ancestors ate, our bodies rest and recover in the same ways: our muscles recover, our brains form and store memories, and our bodies prepare for the coming days. Here are the big benefits that proper sleep can offer.
Proper sleep is linked to an increase in Human Growth Hormone. As we sleep, our bodies release human growth hormone to allow our bodies to recover and build muscle. Every workout, from a light jog to an intense CrossFit WOD, is designed to build strength and endurance. Without enough sleep and human growth hormone, our workouts will never produce the results we strive for each day.
Getting enough sleep will also help fight chronic illness and disease. A study by T.S. Wiley and Brent Formby, the authors of “Lights Out,” showed that getting nine and a half hours of sleep for seven months each year is “the minimum required to beat cancer, diabetes, heart disease and depression.” Their study was done at the National Institutes of Health, and the results were conclusive. This makes perfect sense: allowing our bodies to repair and recover should have a big impact on our overall health and well-being.
Sleep also plays a key role in lowering cortisol levels, the hormone that regulates stress. Elevated cortisol levels at night have been shown to make your body become resistant to insulin and decrease your body’s overall performance (conclusions shown in the studies of both T.S. Wiley and Brent Formby and Eve Van Cauter). Decreased performance is bad enough, but insulin resistance has been shown to increase the fat gain and likeliness of Type 2 diabetes.
The other (but certainly not the last) area that is affected by sleep is our metabolism. The increase in cortisol levels have a huge negative impact on our metabolism and affect our bodies’ ability to function properly. Our metabolism is what allows us to break down food and nutrients for energy and build the necessary cell components, proteins and nucleic acids (DNA) that we need to live. The extra cortisol and lowered metabolism cause an imbalance of hormones that stop our bodies from properly recovering and functioning properly. Our glucose levels are left in a state of chaos that causes our bodies to use energy less efficiently and further wreak havoc on our performance. A German study went so far as to show that each hour of lost sleep can increase a person’s chance of becoming obese by 33%. The effects are numerous but the point is clear: a lack of sleep can and will lead to diminished performance and limit the results of our hard work.
Now that we know the many benefits of getting proper rest, we will look at some ways to assess the quality of sleep that we are currently getting and improve the quality of sleep we get each night. Check back next week for some great tips to reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
Thanks to Social WOD and their article, “How Sleep Can Improve Your Fran Time,” for the data used in this article.
Image credit National Institute of Health .