"Sleep is the golden chain that binds our health and body together" ~ Thomas Dekker
Whenever it comes to health and fitness, people do a lot of right things as well as wrong things. Misguided would be an inapproriate word to use, rather it is the lack of awareness that breaks the chain in between. I wish to address such a topic that is most likely to be absent in the awareness spectrum of people looking to improve their health and fitness. That elephant in the room is 'sleep'. Sleep is undeniably something everyone loves. It's like the most comfortable thing to do in the whole day. Atleast for me
Funny thing, I am writing this at 3:23 AM and I had just woken up in the middle of my sleep because of these legendary blood suckers (mosquitoes) in my room. I couldn't just fall asleep all over again and I thought why not take this time to write something and dang, I had the topic in my head already!
Alright, so sleep!
If you are an active individual spending some time everyday training or exercising, you need to sleep! This doesn't imply that people who do not train shouldn't sleep. It is equally important but for the former case it becomes exponentially important. Sleep is one of the most important factors when it comes to health optimisation, improve fitness and build muscle/lose fat. Research shows that lack of sleep takes a toll on immunity and memory. People with less than 6 hours of sleep (I would like to add and also with minimal to no physical activity) are most likely to be associated with obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases
That said, does sleep also directly affect your metabolism, muscle building, fat loss and performance? Yes, it does!
Our body has this gift of recovery. It can recover itself from the soreness post a training session which is caused due to the damage (microtrauma) your muscle undergoes while resisting and acting against the load it is placed under. Just like a sown seed requires sunlight, water, nutrients and manure to grow; our body too requires a fixed set of inputs from our end (which are of course its natural requirements) to repair and grow. The internal mechanisms of our body become so efficient during a sleep that each tissue in our body recovers and renews at a faster rate than any other time in the day. When we sleep, our body enters an anabolic state and the production of growth hormone marks an exponential increase. This in turn increases the MPS (muscle protein synthesis) in our body and hence favors recovery and growth. The enhanced hormonal functioning and related anabolic benefits thus has a direct impact on energy expenditure, muscle recovery and building, fat loss and performance.
To build a house is a necessity, but without the raw material in place the necessity is unfed. Similarly, sleep to fetch you its benefits to the fullest has to be backed by a solid nutrition plan and even more important is specifically the pre-sleep nutrition. Let us understand why-
Our sleep is divided into cycles, known as sleep cycles. Just as we fall asleep, we gradually start to enter into a state of deep sleep and we are so programmed that we come out of this state approximately 90 minutes later. This is a recurrent process but with the completion of each sleep cycle the duration of the next cycle increases. Which implies that the first sleep cycle is the shortest cycle. Now here's where the pre-sleep nutrition makes all the difference in the game. The first sleep cycle is when our somatotropic cells in the brain secrete maximum growth hormone. As the process continues, the growth hormone secretion slowly falls down pushing us towards a catabolic state closer to our wake up time. Here's when our body spikes the stress hormone, cortisol. Now the question, how to tweak your nutrition to ensure you reap the maximum benefits possible?
The answer is 'blend' of amino acids. To explain in layman terms, a combination of fast and slow digesting protein sources. The reason being, our body will use up the fast digesting protein in the first sleep cycle where the GH output is maximum and ensure maximum MPS in a short span of time. You may call the first sleep cycle as the golden anabolic window. The following sleep cycle where the GH output starts to come down slowly is when our body can assimilate and transport the slow absorbing protein sources and feed our tissues little by little for the recovery. Now, our sleep cycles are designed in a way that we get the rested benefits of a sleep at the peak of a sleep cycle. Remember, each sleep cycle lasts for about 90 minutes. So the peak would be 1.5 hours, 3 hours, 4.5 hours and so on. If you wake up in the middle of a deep sleep, you dont feel rested enough. Its only when we wake up at the peak of a sleep cycle that we get the rested benefits of a sleep cycle.
Now that the importance of sleep is stressed upon, people still do not sleep well these days. Technology is majorly to be blamed for it (from my personal experience). One of the major factor that comes to my mind that affects the sleep cycle is usage of mobile phones pre-bed. I am pretty sure some of you might be reading this on their phones, lying on their beds right now
One tip: Ensure that you keep your mobile devices away and stop using them atleast an hour prior to sleep. Your sleep cycles will massively improve and you will feel more fresh the next day!
Having said that, I need to catch up on some sleep myself! Goodnight folks!
Sleep well to grow well. :D
Article Contributed by" Melvin Cherian - Fitness Coach& BioMechanic Expert at GetSetGo