Select Page

            Sleep and why you need it! (Even if you think you don’t!)

quote "Fatigue makes cowards of us all" - Vince Lombardi

Be honest. How many times were you completely exhausted, sure that you would finally get those 8 hours of sleep you’d only dream about (no pun intended), only to be staring at your alarm clock 5 hours later at 3am wondering how the hell your gonna make it through the next day.

Oh man, just writing that makes me cringe, because lets face it. You know your eventual fate.

Let me paint you this picture. You’re gonna wake up in about 2 hours. That morning shower wont cut it, as you struggle to keep your eyes open while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The thought of having to explain to your boss why you’re 40 minutes late is only aggravating you more at this point and with the way this day is going, all the breaks you needed grabbed a one way ticket to Mars. Your favorite co-worker calls to tell you that he isn’t coming in. Great. Now you’re stuck going to eat lunch with Bob who sweats from his brows and spits when he chews.

When you’re finally done work, you’re welcomed to another hour of traffic just minutes after your AC dies. Super.

Ahhh finally you arrive to the gym. Your haven. The only thing you’re hoping can redeem and salvage this brutal  day…Not so fast. It’s Monday. That means the gym is full of guilt ridden weekend bingers who think their 2 hour workout will help burn the past 48 hours of mindless food-porn carnage they indulged in. Ten minutes later and finally getting a free bench, you go to grab your dumbbells, ready to go all out beast mode like a bat out of a hell, aaaaaaannnnnnnd, then you yawn. A lion’s yawn at that. Sigh.

You’ve come to realize that there’s a better chance you fall asleep on the bench than actually start dumbbell pressing. That’s it. Time to face the music. You’re done. Throw in the towel. You get up, head down and walk out of the gym. You’ve succumbed to exhaustion. Chalk it up as a loss and try to redeem yourself tomorrow.

Okay, maybe that was a little exaggerated and there’s no way your day ends up as crappy as that, but lets face it. Trying to get through a full day of work and training can feel like trying to push a boulder up a mountain. Barefoot. In Siberia. In the middle of January.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some of you can get by on 5 hours of sleep, and be perfectly fine. I’ve seen my business partner sleep 4 hours and by the time 10 am came around, he had already grinded out a grueling 90 min shoulder workout, and he’d be on his 3rd client of the day and smile and carry himself as if he were leaving on a plane to the Caribbean’s in just a few hours.

Regardless if you’re feeling great, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is peaches and cream on the inside of your body. Sure, you might not be walking around auditioning for The Walking Dead, but your body is definitely taking a beating.

Now, there are many, and I mean many problems that can arise from sleep deprivation, both physically and emotionally, and I don’t wanna spend too much time on the usual suspects. Instead what I want to do is focus on how losing sleep affects your training and how it can be the reason your not seeing results, or worse, why you may be regressing.

So, aside from the most obvious feeling, which is fatigue, losing sleep leaves your brain exhausted which affects your ability to function, making decision-making and concentration really tough. It also impacts your short term and long-term memory due to your brains inability to consolidate memory, which only occurs in deep sleep. So the next time you get pulled over for passing a red light, just tell the cop “Sorry, I didn’t sleep last night, I don’t remember seeing a red light” Who knows, maybe he’ll at least smile before he slaps you with a 200$ fine.

Your emotions are also affected, making you more likely to have a short temper and mood swings. So ya, you’ll be quite the ray of sunshine at work the following day.

Lack of sleep can also trigger mania in people who have manic depression. Other risks include impulsive behavior, depression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts. Wow.

One of my favorites is that on no sleep, your brain forgets to remind you of when you’re full. Man, I must lose out on sleep EVERY night. Its true though. Lack of sleep lowers your levels of a hormone called leptin. Leptin tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. Sleep deprivation prompts your body to release higher levels of insulin after you eat, promoting fat storage and increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Since you’re more likely to gain weight if you’re chronically sleep deprived, you’re also at increased risk of problems with your cardiovascular system.

Now this is one I had never heard of. Another side effect of sleep deprivation is micro sleep. That’s when you’re asleep for only a few seconds or a few minutes, but you don’t realize it. Really? How the heck do you fall asleep and not realize it? If you’re sleep deprived though, micro sleep is out of your control and can be extremely dangerous if you’re driving or using any machinery. It can also make you more prone to injury due to poor coordination leading to trips and falls.

Man getting his sleep

What about training? How does lack of sleep affect your performance?

Cortisol Production

 Cortisol, often called the “the stress hormone”, is a hormone in your body that your adrenal glands (which are located on top of each kidney) release in response to stress. They also help regulate and help maintain other bodily functions such as regulating blood sugar, help reduce inflammation and control blood pressure to name a few.

When you don’t get any sleep, Cortisol levels that are usually lowest between 12 and 4am when you’re supposed to be in a deep sleep don’t have a chance to lower, and stay elevated resulting in higher insulin levels and causing your blood sugar to drop, making you crave sugary, fatty foods. Ever wonder why you feel leaner after a good nights sleep? Better yet, why you’re craving sweets the minute you wake up when sleeping less than 5 hours?


Glycogen Stores

Glycogen is mainly stored in the liver and the muscles and provides the body with an available source of energy if blood sugar levels decrease. Our bodies store glycogen by eating carbohydrates, which we store for later energy use.

When our bodies are sleep deprived, the rate at which we store glycogen begins to slow down. This means you burn out a lot sooner when training. Just like Elvis, once the carbs leave the building, the shows over. Performance not only starts to decline but your body will be in a catabolic state which may also increase your body’s production of cortisol as it tries to find a replacement energy source.


Growth Hormone

Human growth hormone is one of the most essential hormones your body releases to aid in muscle recovery and growth. Studies have shown that HGH levels in your blood are at their highest about two hours after you fall asleep.

Having high levels of HGH in your blood increases your muscles’ capacity to absorb amino acids from protein. This usually results in more gains. So no matter how strict your diet may be, all that calculated protein might be going to waste if you’re not getting enough sleep.

Delta Wave Sleep

As you sleep, your body enters different stages of rest. Most people are usually familiar with and often refer to REM sleep as the most important stage, or the stage where most of the recovering is taking place, but the fourth stage of sleep called delta wave sleep, is when your body produces the most muscle building hormones.

Sports physiologist Dr. David Ryan recommends that you sleep for 4.5, 6, 7.5 or 9 hours every night. By sleeping one of these time amounts, you will maximize the number of times you enter delta wave sleep and you will wake up in a lighter stage of sleep so you feel rested in the morning.

He believes that if you wake up in between those recommended times (i.e. 8 hours), you will likely feel groggy, though a 30 min power nap during the day can fix that. Now, some of us are lucky enough to fall asleep the second we lie down. For the rest of you that still battle with efficient sleep patterns, here are a few tips you can use to get you into a better habit and avoid sleepless nights.

ZZZ’s Checklist:

  • Get on a regular schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. You can keep a journal, bedside to track changes.
  • Try to avoid any over the counter sleep medication. Instead, opt for natural options such as melatonin, Magnesium, or a 2:1 ratio of arginine /Ornithine about 30 min before bedtime
  • Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine & Tyrosine-Rich Foods (cheese, soybeans, beef, lamb, pork, fish, chicken, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, beans, and whole grains) at night: caffeine causes hyperactivity and wakefulness. Tyrosine-rich foods are brain stimulating and may keep you awake. Alcohol disrupts sleep by interfering with the stages of sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom cool (around 60-67 degrees)
  • Try to close or not use any device 30-60 min before bedtime. Falling asleep with the TV on is ok, as long as you have the sleep timer set.
  • Try taking a warm bath.

So there you have it. In today’s world, we are clearly dealing with higher stress situations than our parents had to deal with. Having said that, its critical to understand that sleep shouldn’t be thought of as a privilege, but a necessity. Not only to our training and physical health, but to our emotional health as well. Until next time…stay strong. IGympal