Sleep is something we all know we need but rarely get. It’s not even that we know we need it. Our body wants it. It tells you by making you quite literally sleep and tired. Why? Because you need sleep for recovery. Sleep is an essential part of that process – not only for those who exercise and create physical damage to their bodies, but those who are mentally strained as well.
Prioritise Sleep To Optimise Your Health
More and more people neglect and do not prioritise sleep.
The simple answer is because more things are demanding of our attention – social media, websites, video games, movies, hanging out with friends, work, hobbies and more. We spend more time doing these things and sacrifice sleep in the process. Whilst the consequences of this are usually not noticeable immediately, over a prolonged period of time they become chronic.
Some of us don’t even think of sleep as something required to function, but rather as a luxury. This simply is not true.
- Heals your body
- Helps your brain to create memories
- Promotes healthy heart function and increases longevity
- Allows us to ‘reset’ our body and mind
- Helps to reduce stress (here are 11 ways to reduce chronic stress)
It’s where the recovery process really takes place. Your hormone levels balance out, muscles repair and mental health generally improves (you’re probably grumpy when you’re sleep deprived – right?).
The Importance Of Sleep For Recovery
#1 – Less Sleep Inhibits Recovery
This one may sound counterintuitive to the article title, but a lack of sleep can increase cortisol (stress hormone) levels and therefore increase stress. Cortisol can inhibit the recovery process. In addition, not getting enough shut-eye can reduce how much glycogen is produced for your muscles during recovery which can lead to fatigue and weakness.
#2 – Sleep Is Where Growth Hormone Is Released
One of the key elements to recovery and increased muscle mass or strength is the production of growth hormone. During non-REM sleep (where you aren’t dreaming – if you can’t recall any dreams, remember you forget most of your dreams) your pituitary gland releases growth hormone. This helps to stimulate muscle growth and repair.
Since a lack of sleep can largely diminish the amount of growth hormone secreted, it’s easy to see why not getting enough sleep can hamper recovery. In addition, a reduction in growth hormone is associated with loss of muscle mass, obesity and lowered exercise capacity.
Just a side note, studies and research have shown that dreams can occur during non-REM sleep, but the large majority of dreams occur during REM sleep.
#3 – Physical Restoration Occurs
In non-REM deep sleep, around 40% of the blood that would be received by the brain is sent to the muscles instead. This helps the muscles to restore energy by aiding cell reproduction, cellular regeneration and regulation of your body’s metabolism. More blood flows to your muscles, and as a result, your muscles receive more oxygen and nutrients which aids the repair and recovery process.
#4 – Prolactin Improves The Anti-Inflammatory Response
During sleep, a hormone known as prolactin is secreted. Prolactin has anti-inflammatory properties which help to prevent achy joints and aid the recovery process.
#5 – Sleep Increases Mental Alertness
It’s no secret that to perform at the top of your game, you have to be mentally alert, and by ‘game’ I mean any situation involving work or competition. When you sleep, you give your brain a chance to rest. Adenosine is a growth hormone receptor which declines during sleep. Since blocking adenosine in the brain has been associated with higher levels of alertness, it is likely this is a sign of your brain mentally recharging.
During the day, adenosine levels tend to be heightened towards the end of the day, suggesting the brain is tired. Making sure you get a good length of high-quality sleep will help to improve your cognitive and physical performance during the day by allowing you to focus!
How much sleep do you get? And do you prioritise it? If this article was useful please share it and let me know what you think of it down below!