A bad night sleep may ruin the entire next day. We all have been through those cranky and stressful times that can be traced back to an unkempt sleeping schedule. A lot more happens in the body when it is deprived of quality sleep than just feeling sleepy, tired and disoriented in the gym.
Sleeping is the most basic activity that sustains growth and development process in living beings. It also revives and rejuvenates us. Muscle growth similar to the synthesis and repair of all the other cells in the body is facilitated when the body is in the resting phase.
Everybody has different patterns and opinions when it comes to sleeping. Some people are fond of sleeping while some try to curtail their shut-eye period to squeeze in more working hours in a day.
Let’s understand the significance and the duration of sleep we should heed for a healthy body.
What happens when we sleep?
Sleep occurs naturally to all animals including humans. During sleep, the body turns to the restoration process in which it heels itself and removes the metabolic waste.
The sleep cycle broadly constitutes the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (non-REM) and the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep intervals that last for almost 90 minutes in average adults. The Non-REM sleep occurs first and is also called slow-wave sleep or deep sleep after a transitional period, in which the blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tone and brain activity decrease relatively. The REM sleep which forms a smaller portion of total sleep time is associated with faster brain waves and low muscle tone, which may be accompanied with dreams.
Sleeping has the following major functions in the body:-
1) It is during the slow-wave sleep that the body secretes bursts of growth hormone which is a major facilitator of growth and repair of the cells and tissues including the muscle fibres.
2) Sleep positively conditions the immune system of the body. Studies implicate that deprivation of sleep reduces essential proteins required to fight against inflammations and infections. It may also impair the body’s ability to heal wounds.
3) Sleeping has positive effects on brain memory. Memory building processes are enhanced and consolidated during both the slow-wave sleep and the REM sleep periods.
4) Sleeping cleans out the toxins that accumulate in the brain due to the day’s work. Deep sleep helps to clear out the debris by expanding the channels in the brain and allowing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, in turn, removing the toxins.
5) During sleep, the body releases hormones ghrelin and leptin that help balance appetite. If we are sleep deprived we tend to feel more hungry which may lead to weight gain. Sleeping serves as a fasting period in which the body utilizes the stored energy to perform vital functions.
Sleep and Muscle Growth
To grow more muscle and to maintain a certain muscle mass on the body, it is required to have a diet that is rich in all essential nutrients especially Protein. An exercise routine is also a necessity to equip the body to sustain muscle growth. However, the quintessential part of the body’s health and development also comprises of good sleep.
It is during the resting phase that the bodies growth and recovery is most effective. A good sleep enables greater muscle growth as:-
1) The growth hormone is released when we enter the phase of slow-wave sleep or deep sleep. It is an anabolic protein that helps in the regeneration and restoration of muscle fibres.
2) After a good sleep, the brain is more active and focussed for a healthy and productive day ahead. This, in turn, increases the ability of a person to be more alert and physically active during a workout.
3) Sleeping ensures hormonal balance in the body. Hormones are responsible for major body functions like maintaining blood sugar and metabolism that help in better absorption of food.
4) Lack of proper sleep can cause stress and inflammation. This decreases the efficiency during a workout and affects quality muscle growth.
How much Sleep?
Studies recommend 7-9 hours of sleep for adults in a day. Though the sleeping needs for each individual differs according to the type of lifestyle they lead.
It must be noted that the quality rather than quantity is a good scale to measure the benefits of sleeping. Nowadays stressing upon getting an uninterrupted 7 to 9 hours of sleep can sometimes be a feat in itself. Hence, it is better to get yourself a sound quality sleep even if it does not live up to the recommended time period.
Sleep must leave us fresh and ready to focus on our daily task ahead. If you feel drowsy, lethargic or unwilling most of the time throughout the day then chances are that you may be sleep deprived.
There are many factors that might be sabotaging the coveted sleep:-
1) Mental stress from work in the day can trouble the mind enough to estrange a quality sleep at night.
2) Good sleep can also elude an overworked or an overtrained body as it may still be in the process of recovery from the muscle tear and inflammation from the exercise.
3) Having a heavy meal just before bedtime can make one feel uneasy in the gut. This will make it hard for the person to go into deep sleep comfortably.
4) Dabbling with electronic devices with bright screens until late night can irritate the eyes and push the mind into a state of hyperactivity that can prevent sleep.
5) A diet lacking in fibre and essential nutrients littered with processed and high-calorie food can reduce the duration of slow-wave sleep and adversely affect the quality of sleep.
Sleeping is something that naturally occurs to us like the feeling of being hungry or thirsty. It must be prioritized keeping in mind the benefits it ushers to the body and mind.
Growth and development of muscles depends as much on the sleep pattern of the person as the diet and the intensity of the exercise. A healthy and rejuvenated brain after a good sleep is the bedrock of an effective and fulfilling workout.
Avoiding the hindrance to a quality sleep can dramatically increase our potential through the day and keep the body immune to most disorders caused due to sleep deprivation.