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Is Sleep Really That Important?



Sleep is important for every individual. However, it is especially important for those who are active, those who are trying to perform at their best, those training to build muscle, those trying to lose weight, or those who are just trying to recover from a training session. Sleep aids in recovery, performance, and metabolic health. One should get between 7-10 hours of sleep per night.



Have you ever walked into the gym, started your workout, and noticed that everything just feels heavy? Or have you done the same thing but noticed everything feels light? Have you ever thought why? How did you seep the night before? How have you slept the past couple of days? Your sleep and your performance go hand in hand. Sleep deprivation effects your neuromotor system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, metabolic system, immune system, and endocrine system. When you deprive yourself of sleep you experience delayed neuromotor firing, nerve conduction, neuromotor incoordination, fiber recruitment and neuromotor recovery. Sleep and cardiovascular endurance go hand in hand. EPOC is related to sleep deprivation and loss of sleep. EPOC is post-exercise oxygen consumption and is important for restoring your body back to normal metabolic function. A lot of times EPOC is brought up because it is how the body continues to burn calories after a workout is done (this is an extremely over simplified definition). When it comes to exercise we want enough energy to exercise right? Your body converts the food you eat into APT (adenosine triphosphate) to fuel your exercise. Sleep deprivation hinders your bodies ability to efficiently create energy resulting in increased fatigue.


Sleep deprivation also impacts hormones. This is going to effect ones appetite, energy expenditure, and ability to recover. Hormones like leptin, ghrelin, and hormone growth hormone are effected during sleep deprivation. Leptin tells your body when you are full. During poor sleep leptin is down regulated, which makes your body think it needs more energy than it does, thus leading to an increase in hunger. Ghrelin tells your body when you are hungry/when you need energy. In instances of sleep deprivation ghrelin goes up and you end up with excess ghrelin leading to an increase in hungry, reduced activity, and fat retention. Human growth hormone or commonly called the “muscle building hormone” is produced when you sleep. Sleeping increases blood flow to your muscle which will then increase tissue repair and rebuilding. You do not build muscle during exercise. During exercise you break down tissue. You build muscle through recovery. Sleep deprivation is also going to decrease testosterone and insulin like growth factor 1. Testosterone and insulin like growth factor is then going to cause protein synthesis to decrease. Sleep deprivation is also going to increase myostatin and glucocorticoids. Both of these catabolic hormones are going to increase protein degradation. The decrease of muscle protein synthesis and the increase in protein degradation is going to lead to muscle atrophy. Muscle atrophy is the loss of muscle tissue.


Notable conclusions in research studies:


Jabekk et al evaluated the effects of sleep education on body composition. One group received a training program and a sleep education class the other just received a training program. At the end of 10 weeks both groups had gained lean mass but the exercise and sleep education group lost more fat mass. This study shows what many other studies shows that sleep effects performance and body composition.


Bonnar at al reviewed different sleep intervention and how they can improve athletic performance and recovery. Many studies have shown a positive relationship between getting in bed for at least 9-10 hours a night and performance.


Nedeltcheva et al evaluated whether insufficient sleep undermined dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. One group slept 8.5 hours a night while the other slept 5.5 hours a night. The group sleeping 5.5 hours per night lost more fat free mass than the group sleeping 8.5 hours a night. The group sleeping 8.5 hours per night lose more fat mass than the group that only slept 5.5 hours per night.

Taheri et al found that those who slept less than 7 hours per night showed an increase in BMI and suggested that it could be due to decreased leptin and increased ghrelin.


Ways to Improve Sleep:


· Go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday

· Limit electronics before bed

· Keep your room cool and dark

· Eliminate caffeine at least 6 hours before bed

· Avoid large meals close to bed time

· Get exposure to light immediately upon waking up (ex: go for a morning walk)

· Develop a pre sleep routine

· Strength train


Other interventions to boost recovery


· Have at least two rest days per week-aka don’t hit the gym 7 days a week

· Make sure to stay hydrated- at least half your body weight in oz. of water (ex. 120/2= at least 60oz of water per day)

· Have good nutrition and eat at least 0.8kg/lb. body weight of protein daily. 0.8 is bare minimum. If you are strength training or in a calorie deficit a higher protein intake would not be a bad idea.

· Make sure to eat before and at least 2 hours following exercise. Daily protein intake is more important so if you are not hungry right after you exercise it is okay to wait 1-2 hours until you are hungry.




Bonnar, D., Bartel, K., Kakaschke, N., & Lang, C. (2018). Sleep Interventions Designed to Improve Athletic Performance and Recovery: A Systematic Review of Current Approaches. Sports Med, 48(3), 683-703. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0832-x

Chandrasekaran, B., Fernandes, S., & Davis, F. (n.d.). Science of sleep and sports performance – a scoping review. Science & Sports, 35(1), 3-11. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scispo.2019.03.006

Jåbekk, P., Jensen, R. M., Sandell, M. B., Haugen, E., Katralen, L. M., & Bjorvatn, B. (2020). A randomized controlled pilot trial of sleep health education on body composition changes following 10 weeks' resistance exercise. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 60(5), 743-748. doi:10.23736/S0022-4707.20.10136-1

Nedeltcheva, MD, A. V., Kilkus, J. M., Imperial, J., Schoeller, D. A., & Penev, P. (2010). Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Ann Intern Med. doi:10.1059/0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006

Sharma, S., & Kavuru, M. (2010). Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview. International Journal of Endocrinology. doi:10.1155/2010/270832

Taheri, S., Lin, L., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. PLOS Medicine, 1(3). doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062