Why Sleep Is The Most Important Thing You’re Not Focusing On!
Time to read: 6 mins
Sleeping as little as possible is often seen as an admirable behaviours in contemporary society. I used to live by the immortal words of Nas and his epic track New York State of Mind “I never sleep, ‘cause sleep is the cousin of death” ....this may have initially helped his hustle, but Nas was wrong and this is not conducive to good health or good productivity.
Sleep is a pivotal component of good health and well-being throughout your whole life. Nothing is more important for your mental & physical health, quality of life, or general safety than getting the sleep you need at the time you need it. The way you feel, your mood and cognition, while you're awake, is heavily influenced by how successfully you slept. Sleep is an important time for your body’s recovery - supporting healthy brain function and repairing you from physical stress. In your younger years, sleep is an important time for growth and development.
The damage from sleep deficiency can be acute, or chronic. Acute sleep deficiency can affect concentration and cause accidents in the home, on the road or at work and could be fatally damaging. Chronic sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some ongoing health problems, and it affects how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.
Studies show that a good night's sleep improves a multitude of cognitive functions. Whether you're learning complicated algebra, or complex motor skills like playing an instrument or the perfect golf swing, to everyday tasks like driving a car, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving ability. This is all linked to the fact that sleep helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.
Subsequently, studies also show that being deprived of sleep can have a negative impact on brain function..that foggy hangover feeling (we at LBE have coined this Poo Brain, for reasons you will find out later). We’ve all been sleep deficient and we all know how it can make us feel like a beta version of ourselves. Its negative impact has been shown in studies looking at decision making, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behaviour, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency is also heavily linked to mental health issues such as depression, suicide, and risk-taking behaviour.
Sleep is crucial in helping your brain work properly. While you're sleeping, your brain is effectively being cleaned for the next day. During the day your brain requires a lot of energy to function, demanding approximately 20% of our resting metabolic rate (RMR), as much as 250-500 kcals. The use and production of this energy creates byproducts (like the fumes out of a car exhaust) that can slow down or damage your brain if left inside. This has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases (dementia, alzheimer's etc).
When you sleep, and particularly during dream (or REM) sleep, the brain is in an enhanced state of ‘neurotoxic waste product removal’ as a result of being flushed with cerebrospinal fluid (think toilet flush washing away Poo...makes sense now) the neurotoxins are removed. Thus, no sleep equals no brain cleaning and a build up of debilitating neurotoxins AKA Poo Brain. When brain cleaning is in full effect it optimises function and opens up new pathways to help you learn and remember information. So avoid Poo Brain and get your sleep!!
Sleep is pretty much numero uno when it comes to physical health. It plays an important role through various mechanisms, especially in recovery and repair of the daily damage caused to tissues, bones and other systems/structures of the body. A 9 year follow up study found that individuals sleeping fewer than 6 hours each night experienced poorer health and had a 70% higher mortality rate (this is very alarming) than those who slept 7 or 8 hours each night (this shit remains significant even after controlling for age, gender, smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and social support!!).
Prolonged sleep deficiency has been linked to increased risks of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
Your immune system, the system that defends your body against foreign or harmful substances, relies on sleep to stay healthy. The link between sleep loss and immune function has been studied by various authors, and there is evidence that natural killer cells (NKC) are decreased after sleep loss and interleukin (IL-6) levels are increased. NKC are vital fighters against pathogens and eat up foreign cells in the body. If we don’t have enough our army is weak! IL-6 are secreted to stimulate an immune response, e.g. during infection and after trauma, especially burns or other tissue damage leading to inflammation. It has been shown that persistent and inadequate sleep causes increased vulnerability to common colds and upper respiratory tract infections, a suggestion that supports the immunosuppressive effects of sleep loss.
Sleep supports healthy growth and development. The onset of sleep triggers the body to release of growth hormone, this promotes normal growth in children and teens, and also muscle tissue and bone development in adulthood (dem gainz). Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility with the release of sex steroids - testosterone and estradiol. Growth hormone accompanied by testosterone boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults..miss out on sleep and you miss out on dem GAINZ!
Various studies have shown that a lack of sleep is linked to an increased risk of obesity; one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Losing sleep means our body misses out on vital weight control mechanisms. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin, is a hormone that stimulates the feeling of hunger and Leptin is a hormone that stimulates the feeling of fullness. When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This creates an artificial environment of hunger than when you're well-rested and leads to over-consumption of calories.
Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.
As we’ve discussed getting enough quality sleep at the right times helps you function well throughout the day. People who are sleep deficient are less productive, they take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes. Thus, sleep plays a big role in performance. Military and naval research has shown that under chronic levels of sleep deprivation the biggest decline is visible in cognitive performance over physical performance. One study found that Norwegian soldiers were considered completely ineffective at the end of 4 days with only 2-4 hrs per night! Sports science literature in general shows that lack of sleep negatively impacts performance in tests for strength, endurance and max effort tests, however the effects are much larger when bouts need to be repeated...basically if you’re planning a weekend at Barrys Bootcamp or have got a double fixture at the weekend, makes sure you prioritise your time at the pillow!
Additionally one of the worst consequences of sleep deprivation on performance is motivation for training!! Plenty of studies (and our own real life experience) has shown that chronic sleep deprivation makes it so much harder to push yourself in training and can be preventative of making real progress on long term performance.
For tips on sleep check out our article 6 ways to improve your sleep tonight and on that note it's now time for you go to bed!!