Friday, December 16, 2011

The Importance of Sleep

I have not been sleeping enough this week and I have no legitimate reason for it. I have been up too late wrapping presents, shopping etsy, and doing laundry after going to happy hour, and then I have been waking up earlier than I need to so I can blog. I was groggy each morning but it didn't really catch up to me until yesterday. All day I felt tired and, at times, nauseous. I was working a full day and then an event from 7-9 so I brought the necessary equipment for a quick run between work and the evening phoneathon. All day I was thinking that running would be impossible though. I just wanted to sleep. But I got over myself and changed into a shirt that always makes me happy. Still, I wasn't super enthusiastic.

All I wanted to do was take a nap under my desk. Or in the bathroom.

Then I started running and all was good for a mile or two. I was moving pretty quickly and I felt alright. I had to stop at a light for a few seconds and, when I started up again, my legs felt so heavy. I was sluggish and, with every step, I felt like I might trip on my own feet and eat the pavement. At mile 2.5, I turned into strong winds and that only made it worse. Running was possible it just didn't feel as good as it normally does. I usually love the burn but, yesterday, my loopy head and my heavy legs weren't loving anything. I almost hoped I'd trip so I could just stay down on the sidewalk and snooze for a bit.

I finished the run having maintained a surprisingly fast pace for the way I was feeling. Then I worked for three hours, came home to chill, and slept soundly for nine hours. I feel a lot better and I did some research this morning on the relationship between sleep and exercise and there are some pretty important things I want to share with you:
  • The average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep every night but the exact amount depends on the person. Know your body.
  • Sleep loss deminishes the ability to produce peak power while exercising because it can lower maximal heart rate. It can also harm coordination and efficiency during exercise. Source
  • Just one sleepless night before a major event which, if you're anything like me, is the story of every night before an important race, is unlikely to hurt performance. Source
  • Sleeping at least 8 hours a night not only improves your ability to exercise to your fullest but it puts you at much less risk of heart attack. According to one study, women who sleep less than six hours a night have a 40% higher chance of heart attack than those who sleep eight. Those who sleep 6-8 hours a night have an 18% higher chance. Source
  • Sleep deprivation decreases your body's level of leprin and ghrelin, hormones responsible for making you feel full and increasing your appetite, respectively. So being sleepy will likely make you eat too much and therefore gain weight. Even if you workout. Source
  • Your body also releases a growth hormone while you sleep which helps to strengthen your bones and muscles so sleeping too little can limit your ability to recover from an intense workout or make your muscles and bones stronger. Source
  • The best time to exercise is usually late afternoon because body temperature rises during exercise and can take as long as six hours to drop. Cooler body temperatures are associated with sleep onset so it is important to allow the body time to cool. Source

I went through a period in high school where my mom actually paid me to sleep. I was a silly teenager who stayed up late talking on the phone, doing homework, writing emo things in my journals, and making photo collages. My mom set up a system where she'd raise my allowance fairly significantly (I don't remember exactly how much) if I got 8 hours of sleep at least six days a week. It was very important to her and, as a superstar soccer player playing daily, it should have been important to me too.

Now that I am mature and I've learned that I'm not invincible, I should be smarter than to sleep so little that I'd rather snooze on a sidewalk than run four miles. I have to remind myself that when I decided not to hibernate this winter, that didn't mean that I shouldn't sleep.

How much sleep do you get a night? Do you ever find that your sleeping pattern is negatively or positively affecting your exercise routine?

*I don't claim to be any kind of health expert. I am just a girl who likes to exercise and I think that sleeping is important!

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