Sleep: Just a few of its many benefits
By: Justin Mason
Team Poynter Member and Workout Partner!
Over the past few decades the fitness industry has skyrocketed in its appeal to the general public. With everything from new age training equipment to the latest fad diet, fitness is everywhere. With today’s high demands from society, this is a good thing as physical fitness is a natural way to help relieve the body of stress. However, with all the attention that fitness is getting, there is one aspect that still gets neglected: Sleep. In order to reach an optimum fitness level, adequate sleep must be attained.
Along with diet and exercise, sleep is an important piece of the puzzle related to training performance. In a study conducted at Stanford University, it was found that members of the swim team who got extra sleep over an extended period of time not only felt more refreshed, but actually swam faster, reacted quicker, improved their turn times, and increased their kick strokes. In Linda Hepler’s article, “The Power of Restorative Sleep”, Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory comments on the results of this study. She states that, “These results begin to elucidate the importance of sleep on athletic performance and, more specifically, how sleep is a significant factor in achieving peak athletic performance” (Hepler). While lack of sleep can have dire consequences, adequate sleep provides only positive, healthful benefits.
Electrical activity in the brain during sleep indicates that healthful physiological changes occur in 90-minute periods throughout the night. This built-in biological clock operates in a circadian rhythm of these 90-minute cycles and is what helps regulate an individual’s sleep patterns. This cycle repeats itself every 24 hours and losing sleep during any 24- or 48- hour period interrupts the recovery process that occurs during sleep. In fact, Dr. Misner stated that, “Recovery in subjects deprived of sleep for 24 hours has been measured at 72%, while recovery after a 48-hour period without sleep further deteriorated to a level of only 42%” (Misner). This negative impact on recovery is due largely to the decrease of human growth hormone (HGH).
HGH is a hormone produced in the pituitary gland. It is responsible for building muscle tissue and has a direct influence on body composition. According to Dr. Hatfield, “Sleep at night (during the first hour or so) is accompanied by a growth hormone response. So are naps during the day, provided they’re good quality naps” (Hatfield, 26-31). These quality naps are of course those in duration of no more than 30-45 minutes. Any longer and it will interfere with the nightly sleep cycle. This interference should be avoided as a quality sleep cycle should be sought after on a nightly basis.
In conclusion, it is apparent that sleep is a necessity in the development of optimum fitness levels. “Although often neglected, sleep is just as important as diet and exercise in forming the fitness triangle” (Goudesenne, 247-266). The sleep patterns necessary are regulated by an internal biological clock that repeats itself every 24 hours. During this time the body releases a series of hormones, the most important being HGH, that aid in recovery and recuperation. This recovery period is when the body makes the necessary adjustments needed to reach an optimum fitness level.
Goudesenne, Scott. ACE Personal Trainer Manual. San Diego: American Council on
Exercise P, 2003.
Hatfield, Frederick. Fitness: The Complete Guide. Santa Barbara: The International Sports
Sciences Association P, 1989.
Hepler, Linda. “The Power of Restorative Sleep”. MAX Sports and Fitness. September 2008:
Misner, Bill. “The Importance of Sleep for Muscle Growth”. Men’s Health. December
Undergraduate at Eastern Kentucky University
Studying Chemistry and Pre-Pharmacy