Sleep is something that I attempt to address with so many of my clients. Why? Because I believe that sleep is a factor that can truly impact on many aspects of a persons wellbeing. It is equally, if not more important, than exercise and a balanced diet. Not convinced? Please keep reading.
Decades of sleep studies have told us a few things for sure.
Firstly that sleep deprivation can accumulate over time which accrues a sleep debt. This is essentially the difference between what your body needs and what your body gets. Going to sleep 30-60 minutes later a few days in a row can mean that you quickly build up a few hours of sleep debt. While this may not manifest into any obvious signs and you may not feel tired as such but there will be real declines in mental and physical performance. The easiest solution here is to avoid the debt altogether but sometimes its unavoidable. The good news is that you can reduce this debt by getting a few extra hours sleep via afternoon naps or a sleep in on the weekend BUT just so you know research does show that it takes 4 days to recover from lost sleep and up to 9 days to eliminate sleep debt completely.
Secondly insufficient sleep has been linked to a myriad of health related problems including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental health problems, compromised immune function and obesity. There are many other factors that also must be considered when thinking about such health problems but sleep is definitely a piece of the puzzle that shouldn’t go unaddressed.
Lastly (and probably most relevant to me as a physio) is that sleep plays a crucial role in injury recovery. Muscles and tissues repair and rejuvenate as we sleep. You may be thinking how? When we sleep blood flow into skeletal muscle increases. More blood flow brings more oxygen along with lots of the other good nutrients that we need for healing. On top of this there is the hormonal response, during deep sleep our pituitary gland releases growth hormones that also stimulate repair and growth along with prolactin which is an important regulator of inflammation. Healthy sleep habits have also been linked to lower pain levels which is such an important consideration when treating chronic pain related issues.
I think sleep is an ignored and compromised thing by so many people as a result of busy schedules, other demands such as work, school, social; and of course technology I including as cell phones, computers and the abundant availability of on demand streaming. Its way too easy to binge watch multiples episodes of a show in one night because its right there, but suddenly its 11PM and you have lost 90 vital minutes of time for your body to start its recovery process from the stresses you have put it through that day. If that happens 3 nights in a row you are down 4-5 hours. Maybe that's why you didn’t lift so well in the gym this week? Why you felt unmotivated? Why your back has started to play up again?
Way too many people view a good nights sleep as a luxury when really it’s more of a necessity. So these holidays, take a little extra down time for you and catch up on some much needed zzz’s, trust me you will not regret it!!!