Did you know that 1 in 3 people suffer from Sleep Deprivation? “Eat Sleep Train Repeat”– These are the words of wisdom passed on for generations of lifters. All of these affect your overall results more than any other factors. Yet, I see many aspiring lifters that don’t take recovery as serious as training. Training is simply the stimulus for growth. Without the correct response to that stimulus, ie Nutrition and Sleep for recovery, it is nearly impossible to make progress in the long term.
What is Sleep Deprivation?
Most people generally require 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. While sleep deprivation can cause noticeable symptoms such as drowsiness, impaired cognition, fatigue, emotional issues etc., chronic sleep deprivation can cause some severe health problems.
Health Risks of Chronic Sleep Deprivation
High blood pressure
Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
Fetal and childhood growth retardation
Injury from accidents
Disruption of bed partner’s sleep quality
Poor quality of life
Type 2 Diabetes
Factors Responsible for Sleep Deprivation
Our modern lifestyles have caused a significant disruption in our natural circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm refers to the roughly 24 hours in a day that our body clock is adjusted to functioning in. Humans, Animals and Plants all have a circadian rhythm which is largely influenced by sunlight and darkness. With the advent of electricity and artificial lighting, our bodies have a hard time telling if it is night or day. This phenomenon has only been amplified due to the increasing usage of TV screens, computer monitors, smartphones etc.
After sunset, our bodies produce more melatonin, which is the primary hormone responsible for putting us to sleep. When exposed to artificial sources of light, our bodies produce less melatonin, which not only makes it harder to fall asleep but also affects sleep quality.
Obesity and Sleep Apnea
Obesity is another major factor affecting our sleep. Did you know that a large percentage of obese people suffer from sleep apnea? If a person has sleep apnea, he/she will stop breathing during sleep. If you are overweight, consider getting yourself tested for sleep apnea.
Symptoms of sleep apnea:
Waking up with a very sore or dry throat
Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
Sleepiness or lack of energy during the day
Sleepiness while driving
Forgetfulness, mood changes, and a decreased interest in sex
Recurrent awakenings or insomnia
Lifestyle & Stress
Stress has a big impact on sleep and vice-versa. If you don’t sleep enough, you will get more stressed and if you stress too much, you will get poor sleep. This will cause a vicious cycle. We already know how important it is to manage stress to make progress in an outside the gym.
Today we often find ourselves working long hours, traveling across time zones, staying up late, partying, drinking, consuming stimulants etc. While this is fine in moderation, we must realize how it affects our sleep. Some people even take pride in telling others how little they sleep and how much they work. These people are either lying, genetically predisposition to sleeping less or are suffering health consequences.
Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep and Strength Training
Without enough quality sleep, you will not be able to sustain hard training. Why? Contrary to what most people think, the actual adaptation i.e Muscle and Strength gains don’t occur in the gym. Hard training actually breaks down muscle and induces fatigue. This is a required stimulus to disrupt homeostasis and force your body to adapt to a new level of muscle and strength.
Check out the complete article on Stress Management for Strength Training
If you want to make long-term progress, you need to focus on progressive overload. This means that over time, as your strength and fitness levels increase, you need to do more work/volume (WeightxRepsxSets) to make further gains. Thus recovery becomes more important as you become more advanced. If you’re fatigued going into the training session, you might not be able to train with enough volume to make the best gains as you will inevitably feel tired.
Cognition and Emotions
Cognition refers to mental activities such as learning, critical thinking, focusing, judgment, decision making, reading, writing etc. Even though training is a physical activity, we need to have a great degree of mental focus in order perform the movements effectively and safely. Strength is a skill which needs to be mastered through repetition. Many of the big compound movements are technical in nature and require complete attention during the movement. When lifting heavy weights, muscles need to fire at in a timed sequence. Any mistakes will lead to poor technique and potentially injury.
Even when performing less technical movements and/or lifting lighter weights ‘mind-muscle connection’ is an extremely important factor to target the correct muscles.
Did you know that sleep deprivation is often considered to be equal to or worse than drunk driving? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is a factor in more than 100,000 crashes, resulting in 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries annually in the USA.
Hormones and Body Composition
Body composition refers to how much body fat and Lean Body Mass (LBM) makes up a person’s total body weight.
Sleep controls many of the most important hormones responsible for muscle gain and fat loss. Sleep Deprivation decreases the anabolic hormones including testosterone, Growth hormone, IGF-1 and increased the catabolic hormones including cortisol.
Probably the number 1 factor we deal with on a fat loss diet is hunger. Sleep deprivation increases ghrelin (hunger) and decreases leptin (satiety). Since we know that sleep deprivation increased stress, it can also increase a person’s chances of stress eating and binge eating. For most people, dieting requires a lot of willpower and sleep deprivation can drain your willpower.
Sleep deprivation decreases the factors that lead to muscle gain and increase the factors that lead to fat gain. This is a double whammy to those of us who are trying to improve our body composition.
If you want to learn more about the lifestyle effects of sleep deprivation, I highly recommend you check out: The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time