Beware, this is a wordy post. But if you're interested in learning something you may never heard of before, keep reading.
The Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology (CSEP) guidelines state that you should get 7-9 hours of good quality sleep at consistent times. This isn't exactly new to most people. Most people already (hopefully) get this amount of sleep.
Most of us can agree that sleep is good for you. It allows your body to recover, improves productivity, increases performance, improves your memory and enhances overall health.
But why else is sleep essential?
1) For the Body's Circadian Rhythm and Immune Function:
The body's circadian rhythm, or natural sleep cycle, is the internal process that regulates the body's sleep and awake cycle which repeats approximately every 24 hours.
Melatonin, the “sleep hormone” is produced in the body to help regulate your circadian rhythm. Melatonin also enhances the immune system, regulates the stress response and contains antioxidant properties. Melatonin production is stimulated during darkness, and inhibited by light.
Thus, with more consistent sleep times, and less screen time/light at night, melatonin production is increased, giving you better sleep and overall health (Malhotra, Sawhney, Pandhi 2004).
2) For Brain and Muscle Energy:
Glucose is a type of sugar in food that the body uses for energy. It is also the essential metabolic fuel for the brain. With a decrease in brain glucose, this can lead to not-so-nice effects such as impairment of cognitive function, autonomic failure, brain damage and more.
Yeah, kinda scary.
During sleep, glucose is converted and stored as glycogen. During wake times, glycogen is used up and depleted.
Glycogen yields more energy than glucose and when blood glucose stores are depleted, glycogen can be broken down for energy. So why does this matter?
Glycogen is important to have, because glucose can be quickly used up in the brain for energy. Thus glycogen is readily available and can be converted back to glucose.
What does this have to do with sleep? During sleep is the only time that glycogen can be replenished (Mergenthaler, Lindauer, Dienel, Meisel, 2013).
So folks, yet another reason to get your Zzz's in.
3) For Muscle and Bone Health:
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Androgens are hormones both essential to muscle repair, muscle building, and bone growth. Thus, they help the body to repair tissue and speed up healing during injury.
This is particularly helpful for sports injuries or muscle soreness from exercise, as it speeds up recovery time, and therefore enhancing performance. Athlete's and gymrats take note!
HGH and Androgens are both produced and released during sleep (Marshall, Turner & Anthony, 2016), and getting enough deep sleep is one of the best ways to enhance your long term HGH production (Takahashi, Kipnis, and Daughaday, 1968).
Now that you know a little more about what sleep does for the body, how do we get more of it?? Stay tuned for the next post to find out!
Malhotra, S., Sawhney, G., & Pandhi, P. (2004). The therapeutic potential of melatonin: a review of the science. MedGenMed : Medscape general medicine, 6(2), 46.
Marshall, G. and Turner, A., 2016. The Importance of Sleep for Athletic Performance. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 38(1), pp.61-67.
Mergenthaler, P., Lindauer, U., Dienel, G. A., & Meisel, A. (2013). Sugar for the brain: The role of glucose in physiological and pathological brain function. Trends in Neurosciences, 36(10), 587–597. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tins.2013.07.001
Takahashi, Y., Kipnis, D. and Daughaday, W., 1968. Growth hormone secretion during sleep. [online] Growth hormone secretion during sleep. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC297368/> [Accessed 16 May 2022].