THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF SLEEP
I really LOVE this article that breaks down how important it is we get enough time sleeping… enjoy the read and thanks Arash for the article
written by Arash Rex Maghsoodi PT, DPT, CSCS
Far too often, sleep is viewed incorrectly and I believe this to be the case for two reasons. Firstly, there’s a large percentage of the population where sleep and prioritizing it is looked at as being lazy or unproductive. Particularly in the corporate world, much of the mindset still revolves around rewarding those up late on email and up early working. The other way in which sleep is perceived the wrong way is in being solely looked at as a time of rest or break. In this article, we will discuss the health benefits of sleep, and various, simple strategies you can implement into your routine to help improve your overall sleep health!
THE REALITY OF SLEEP HEALTH: WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
The reality is that sleep is far from an inactive break for the body and is very much something every single person should be prioritizing for their health, well-being, and success. Every single physiological system of your body is being balanced, enhanced, and fine-tuned during sleep. Every single cell reaps some sort of benefit from a restful night of quality sleep.
“We have not been able to find one single system of the body that is not affected by sleep, either positively when we get it or negatively when we don’t”- Dr. Matthew Walker
WHY: THE CASE FOR SLEEP PRIORITIZATION
As we can see from the graphic here, sleep should be viewed as the ultimate life enhancer, due to its’ wide-reaching impacts on many facets of our life. Whether it’s through the lens of health, performance, cognition, successful relationships, aesthetics, or rehabilitation, sleep plays a pivotal role. We could make this entire blog about the associations sleep has, but we’ll be focusing on 3 main buckets: health, performance/exercise, and rehabilitation.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SLEEP: IMPACT ON ENTIRETY OF THE HUMAN BODY
Sleep has the ability to impact our health in a multitude of ways due to the fact that as we mentioned, it has touchpoints with every single system of the body. Whether it’s cardiovascular efficiency, endocrine balance, metabolic flexibility and regulation, or neurological enhancement – we can see sleep’s influence.
- Sleep And Mortality: The first element to link between sleep and our health lies in the correlations we see between sleep and mortality. Even when we control for other variables, we see a direct association between sleep and mortality, where the lowest risk lies in the range of 7-8 hours of sleep (part of where these duration recommendations come from).
- Sleep and Correlation of Chronic Diseases:Next, we can look into the association that we see between sleep and the risk for the major chronic diseases we deal with in modern society (i.e. Cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Cancer). We also see higher incidences of obesity and depression in those individuals not getting good sleep quality and duration.
- Sleep and Immune System Function: Sleep plays a vital role in multiple elements of our immune system. Firstly, sleep impacts our adaptive immunity which is essentially your ability to fight off pathogens. For example, those getting less sleep are 3x more likely to succumb to the common cold. The other way in which sleep impacts the immune response is our innate immunity, the actual immune response to something we’re actively fighting. As a demonstration of this, there is research that shows our antibody response to a flu vaccination to be much less when we are sleep deprived.
CORRELATION BETWEEN SLEEP AND HEALTH
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SLEEP: PERFORMANCE
The next element of the correlations for sleep is the ties into performance (both physical and mental). Performance is relative to every individual and does not mean only athletics. We’re talking about performance in work, life, and relationships as well. Sleep is very much an underestimated impactor of our ability to perform at our best – so let’s dive into some of the ways it plays a role. First through the lens of the mental performance that sets the foundation.
Motivation, focus, and discipline are strongly influenced by sleep quantity and sleep quality. Our ability to get in the right mindset in order to perform will be impacted by the sleep from the night before. Intuitively this is something we can all relate to where we don’t have the same mental edge when we’re not sleeping well.
Motor learning and the ability to learn new movement tasks are directly influenced by sleep quality. The ability to produce force and power as well as maximum strength output is also impacted by our shut-eye. Lastly, our capacity in terms of time to fatigue has been shown to be correlated as well.
The moral of the story is that sleep is the foundation for both mental and physical performance with day-to-day and ongoing tasks!
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SLEEP: REHABILITATION
The last category of associations I want to talk about with respect to sleep is the one that gets discussed the least and that is the impact on the world of rehabilitation. Having worked in the rehabilitative space for many years, I saw time and time again the bidirectional relationship sleep had with many components of what makes up a successful rehab process. Meaning that sleep strongly influences these variables and vice versa. As many clinicians will tell you, there are variables that go beyond the musculoskeletal world that dictate injury, breakdown, and recovery with sleep being one of those variables
We’ve already discussed some of the mental and physical elements that will certainly play a role in this process (i.e. motivation, compliance, time to fatigue, motor learning, etc). One of the more powerful relationships surrounding sleep is that with sleep duration and injury risk. This is a story that has been worked out time and time again where less sleep significantly increases the rate of injury and re-injury.
Just as interesting of a topic and correlation is the relationship between sleep and pain. This bidirectional and multifaceted relationship continues to fascinate me. The way in which pain can impact sleep is much more obvious in the inability to get comfortable and relaxed. The existence of the reverse relationship surprises many but we do see that sleep influences pain intensity and perception. It seems that the quality of sleep and efficiency (percentage of time being asleep relative to being in bed) have the greatest influence here.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SLEEP: PREVALENCE OF ISSUES SURROUNDING SLEEP
If you or someone you know is currently struggling with sleep or has had issues in the past, you are most certainly not alone. Depending on the source, there are estimations that anywhere from ⅓ to ½ of the population struggles with sleep in some capacity. Whether that is falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking feeling fully rested.
In my opinion and experience, this number can be even higher if we loosen the criteria and account for those who are just “getting by” with their sleep. What I mean by this is that I very often find that many people might not say they have a sleep issue per se, but need caffeine or naps to fuel the day. They have a new “norm” or baseline that is set with less energy and focus
A study done by consumer reports shows 80% of people admitting to having sleep problems at least once a week. Even more important is the fact that of those struggling, 31% are using some type of sleeping pill or aid.
FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SLEEP ISSUES
When we look at how sleep issues actually occur (outside of the consideration for medical conditions and sleep disorders that adversely affect sleep), we have 3 categories we can call the “3 Ps”
- Predisposing Factorsare anything that makes an individual more likely to deal with sleep issues. These factors can include age, higher levels of anxiety, lower distress tolerance, hyperarousal, etc.
- Precipitating Factorsare the things that set forth a period of interrupted sleep and diminished quality of sleep. Factors that we all experience in varying degrees such as periods of stress, a loss, trauma, jet lag, a new job, etc.
- Perpetuating Factorsare where individuals really get stuck and where acute sleep issues turn into chronic ones. This is the behavior element of sleep issues and why professional advice must be a part of the equation. This is when the previous 2 P’s or factors turn into fundamental changes in beliefs, perceptions, emotions, and the resulting behaviors. This is where the majority of chronic sleep issues stem from and where we can make the most influence via coaching
In short, do not minimize the importance of time sleeping, restoring, recovering and repairing body to prepare yourself the day ahead. Make the most of every chance you get to make the most of your day, be it training, working, family and living life……
Time to hit the pillow!! Zzzzzzzz!![wdi_feed id=”1″]