Sleep It Off

Posted By Xin-min Lai on May 29, 2016 in health and lifestyle


You know you really should do it.  Everyone tells you to get a good night’s sleep, and they probably have been since you were young.  We all know it’s important, but it’s one of the things we’re likely to skimp on or ignore most when life and health/fitness goals get in the way.  

Really, proper sleep SHOULD be a part of your health and fitness plans.  It may not be exercise or healthy food, but your body is at work when your conscious brain turns off for the night.

Many of us probably know there are different stages of sleep – light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep.  Someone getting a good night’s sleep goes through all of them.

So how do they relate to physical fitness?

The first stage, light sleep, is the stage where the heart rate slows and the body temperature begins to cool down. The brain activity during this time shows up in “spindles”, which are essentially tightly packed brain wave patterns. These spindles have been linked to muscle memory and internalizing movements learned during the day.

During the third stage, deep sleep, blood rushes from the brain to the muscles to initiate recovery and re-energize your body. Additionally, elements of the parasympathetic nervous system are triggered while the sympathetic nervous system is suppressed. All of this supports immune function and normal glucose metabolism during the day.

HGH (human growth hormone) is released during this phase.

HGH goes beyond just making kids taller or making the news as a performance enhancing drug.  It is responsible for the following:

  • Strengthens and increases the mineralization of bone
  • Increases muscle mass through sarcomere hypertrophy
  • Promotes lipolysis
  • Increases protein synthesis
  • Stimulates the growth of all internal organs excluding the brain
  • Plays a role in homeostasis
  • Reduces liver uptake of glucose
  • Promotes gluconeogenesis in the liver
  • Contributes to the maintenance and function of pancreatic islets
  • Stimulates the immune system

Let’s not ignore the brain, here.  That’s where the fourth stage, REM sleep, comes in.  This stage of sleep is associated with learning and memory retention, where the hippocampus transfers and filters the day’s information to the neo-cortex.  Also, studies have suggested a crucial role of HGH in both mental and emotional well-being and maintaining a high energy level.  It also appears to induce cognitive function.

So, yeah.  They were right – get a good night’s sleep.

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