The most underrated part of an athlete’s or even a normal person’s fitness journey is sleep. You can do everything right and still not progress as effectively as you thought if you don’t sleep properly.
It’s even safe to say that if exercise and diet comprise of 70% of your training, then the rest is taken up by sleep.
Here are a few effects sleep could have on your health.
1. Sleep deprivation affects Immune Function
Sleep is when the body takes it’s time to heal and repair all the damaged tissues and cells in the body. Our body has an immunological process that occurs throughout the 24hr sleep-wake cycle.
To put it simply, the body releases certain mechanisms as a part of your immune system when you’re awake and certain mechanisms when you’re asleep. The body promotes the release of growth hormone and prolactin which help in the growth of the body.
Prolonged sleep deprivation hinders the immune system’s process, thus bringing about immunodeficiency. (1)
2. Sleep deprivation can hamper weight-loss
If you’re someone who is aiming to lose some extra weight, then I have some bad news for you.
A controlled trial was conducted in which 10 overweight people were made to sleep for 5.5 hours (3 hours less than the prescribed amount) for a period of 10 days. It was found that the people who slept for 8.5 hours lost 50% more fat than those who slept for only 5.5 hours.
The trial also suggested that those who slept less experienced increased hunger and lesser oxidation or burning of fat.
3. Sleep Deprivation can lead to injuries
A study which was done on sleep-deprived adolescent athletes showed an increased rate of injuries.
The study took a survey of 160 students around the age of 12-18 years and found that the athletes who slept less than 8 hours every day were 1.7 times more likely to be injured than those who slept more than 8 hours.
Even, though more research needs to be done on this topic, that doesn’t deny the fact that the body is more prone to injuries when sleep deprived.
4. Sleep deprivation can lower Testosterone level
Sleep is paramount to the body and it isn’t surprising that the testosterone production is also hampered due to this.
Evidence suggested that when 10 completely healthy men were restricted to only 5 hours of sleep, their testosterone levels reduced by around 10-15%. The same study also recognized that these men experienced low energy levels, a decrease in libido, poor concentration, and sleepiness throughout the day.
What to do
Well, the obvious answer is to sleep more. The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of 8-10 hours of sleep for optimal recovery and performance. Cut caffeine a few hours before bed so that it doesn’t keep you up all night. When it gets dark outside, dim the lights in your house and reduce blue or full-spectrum light in your environment.
Fit middle-aged adults sleep significantly better than their overweight peers. One caveat: avoid exercising two to three hours before bedtime as the mental and physical stimulation can leave your nervous system feeling wired and make it difficult to calm down at night.
Always remember that sleep is as important as following a good diet and working out every day.