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The Need for Sleep

The Need for Sleep

The need for sleep

The need for sleep

In the past decade research and polls have shown that we don’t get enough sleep. Those under 35 years of age get the least amount. This lack of slumber time leaves many chronically tired and sleepy throughout the day.

Many report that they limit sleep in order to fit more activities, especially late-night TV watching, into their day. The usual plan to “catch-up” on the weekend is ill-conceived-the human body doesn’t work that way.

Science and sleep

Unfortunately, science doesn’t fully understand sleep. What is known is that it can be divided into five stages. The first four are characterized by non-rapid-eye movement. Stage 5 is marked by rapid-eye movement. Depending on age and how rested the individual is, REM and non-REM patterns cycle throughout the night about every 90 minutes.

When brain waves are measured in sleeping subjects they show a slow wave during stages 3 and 4. When it comes to fitness, this slow-wave sleep is the most important of the night as this is when growth hormone is released by the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. Growth hormone (GH) is necessary to build and repair muscles and bones and it causes us to use more fat for fuel. Studies reveal that when sleep is restricted GH release is reduced. Without adequate levels of GH, recovery from workouts takes longer and fitness building requires more time than would otherwise be necessary. As a result, the sleep-deprived athlete responds poorly to training both in the short term and over the course of a season.

For example, in one study subjects were deprived of three hours of sleep prior to riding a bicycle ergometer to fatigue (1). Compared with when they were well-rested, their heart and ventilation rates were elevated during the endurance ride and their peak oxygen consumption (VO2) dropped. On the other hand, training volume has been shown to have an effect on sleep patterns. One study of competitive swimmers in South Africa found that excessive training caused sleep disturbances (2). But it also showed that when the overreaching athletes did sleep their slow-wave stages made up a higher percentage of the snoozing time than when training was light-almost twice as much.

Adequate sleep is a necessity for the serious athlete. It must be a major consideration every day, especially during heavy training and when peaking for important races. Establishing sleep habits that put you in bed at a standard time every night and allow for eight hours or more of sleep will do as much to peak your fitness as will difficult workouts.

source: article by the late David Spence

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  1. […] Sleep and wake time are the circadian rhythms that are most important to runners and athletes of any sport. This is also a factor that is controllable to some extent. Your sleep pattern determines your chronotype, which is a term coined to describe your body rhythm type. […]

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