Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Fitness By the Fire: Benefits of proper sleep for a fitness lifestyle

by Ron Kennedy • December 19, 2016
Recovery, specifically sleep, is a major fundamental in a dedicated fitness lifestyle. Too often when we plan our exercise protocols, we neglect considering the proper amounts of night time recovery during sleep and how effective it is to us reaching our peak fitness potential. Not only is sleep important for general “recharging” of our energy and cell recovery, but from a muscular growth stand point, sleep is the peak time of when the growth process takes places after exercise.

Time spent sleeping accounts for 27 to 35% of a person's lifetime; assuming a person sleeps 6.5 to 9.0 hours per day, this slumber time accounts for 166,000 to 230,000 hours over an average 70-year life span. Based on small animal studies in which the subjects have been exposed to extreme sleep deprivation, scientists have estimated that the average human may not live past 10 days without sleep. While lack of sleep can have dire consequences, adequate sleep provides only positive, healthful benefits. In a typical day, a person's waking hours are consumed trying to meet the many mental and physical demands encountered at every turn, as well as replenishing vital nutrients as they are being used up during these daily activities. In the hours remaining--during sleep--the body takes time out to rebuild and recharge, preparing for the day ahead.

 Your muscles require additional sleep and recovery time after illness, injury and surgery. This means if you are rehabbing an injury or are in postoperative physical therapy, you should consider that your body needs an extra amount of sleep to heal. In addition, muscular recovery is required after intense exercise, particularly strength and endurance training, in which the muscles have been torn down to some degree. As your body enters into the non-REM deep sleep stage, your pituitary gland releases a shot of growth hormone that stimulates tissue growth and muscle repair. Lack of sleep and changes in sleep quality cause a sharp decline in growth hormone secretion. Growth hormone deficiency is associated with increased obesity, loss of muscle mass and reduced exercise capacity.

Most people are aware the body needs sleep. After all, sooner or later we get tired. But just how much sleep do we need? There is not an exact science, but several factors, including fitness activity, do yield to standards in regards to minimal amounts of required sleep. Some people need more sleep than others due to metabolic reasons. Even the same person at different stages of his life will need differing amounts of sleep. And even that individual will need different amounts of sleep depending on his or her activity level. Young people will usually require seven to eight hours of sleep per night for optimum performance. That is, optimum for average daily living. When that youth decides to become involved in serious fitness based competitions such as sports, that amount should significantly increase. It has to. The more physical activity you do, the more the muscles and nervous system will break down in the natural course of experiencing stress on the body. That rebuilding is done during sleep for most part. So naturally, the more you do, the more time it's going to take to rebuild those systems, and the more sleep you need.

Recovery during sleep is a result of two processes. The body experiences an increased rate of anabolism and a decreased rate of catabolism. These systems work together to create metabolism. Anabolism is the synthesis of cell structures, or in other words, the building of new cellular material such as enzymes, proteins, and cells. This is essential for tissue growth, maintenance, and repair. Anabolism occurs during non-REM sleep, which is about 75-80% of your sleep time. For the new material to be created, energy is needed. Energy comes from catabolism, which is the breakdown of cell structures. In addition to producing energy, catabolism also recycles molecular components, and controls their excretion. When anabolism exceeds catabolism, net growth occurs. When catabolism exceeds anabolism, net loss occurs. Therefore, by reducing the rate of catabolism, anabolism is increased, and results in faster recovery, an increased growth rate, and an overall higher level of performance. If you are working hard to build muscle mass, you should try to get an extra hour of sleep each night. Additionally, a lack of sleep stymies tissue repair, weakens your immune system, contributes to weight gain (not lean mass), increases your risk of injury, lowers your performance, decreases energy, increases irritability, and lessens focus.

Lack of sleep has major implications for public health, safety, productivity, and especially a health and fitness lifestyle. Little is known of the function or the role sleep plays in health and disease. It has been estimated that more than 60 million Americans, or approximately one in three adults, experience inadequate sleep that can interfere with daily activities. Excess sleepiness has been associated with accidents at work or at home, and at least three percent of serious automobile accidents and fatalities are due to a fatigued driver. Sleep deprivation also affects us physically. Insufficient rest greatly reduces your recovery capacity, and thus your capacity to do physical work. Athletes undergoing an intense training program should sleep at least 9-10 hours/night and adding a short nap right after training is optimal. Each year sleep disorders add $16 billion to national health-care costs (contributing to high blood pressure and heart disease). This figure does not account for accidents and lost productivity at work. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders estimates that sleep deprivation costs $150 billion a year in higher stress and reduced workplace productivity. Forty percent of truck accidents are attributable to fatigue and drowsiness, and there is an 800% increase in single vehicle commercial truck accidents between midnight and 8 am. Major industrial disasters such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill, have all been attributed to sleep deprivation.