Sleep is a vital component of a person’s health and well-being; enabling the body to repair and become ready for the day ahead. Getting sufficient amounts of good sleep can also help prevent excess weight gain, heart disease and increased bouts of illness. Although not having enough sleep will not directly affect cardiovascular and respiratory responses to exercise, nor will it lessen aerobic or anaerobic performance capability, muscle strength or electromechanical responses; it will mean that you fatigue faster and the ability to push your workouts as far as what you are capable of will be almost stripped.
Maximum benefits of exercise come from consistency and pushing oneself out of their comfort zone. In order to do this in a sustainable way, sleep is required to provide adequate recovery time, conserve energy and repair/build muscles used throughout the day. Like many lifestyle factors, exercise and sleep need to work alongside each other for best results.
To be more in-depth regarding the type of sleep required to keep up with your fitness goal; the more Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM) we get, the better. REM is one of the five stages in the sleep cycle that the brain moves through. People tend to enter REM sleep within the first ninety minutes of falling asleep and, as the sleep cycle repeats itself throughout the night, REM sleep occurs several times throughout each night, accounting for approximately twenty to twenty-five percent of an adult’s sleep cycle and at least fifty percent of an infant’s.
Most dreams occur during Rapid Eye Movement sleep; as it plays a role in learning, memory and mood. During REM sleep, our brain is almost as active as when we are awake and is thought to consolidate memories. In this phase of sleep, breathing can become fast and irregular, which is where the belief that people burn calories in their sleep comes from. Other changes of the brain and body during the REM sleep phase include: rapid movement of the eyes, increased heart rate, changes in body temperature, increased blood pressure, increased oxygen consumption by the brain and twitching of the face and limbs. Drinking alcohol, especially later in the day, reduces the amount of REM sleep we have. A lack of those certain stage of sleep can have adverse implications for physical and emotional health.
The following consequences have been associated with people who have reduced levels or lack of Rapid Eye Movement sleep:
- They have difficulty remembering what they have been taught before falling asleep.
- Abnormalties in coping mechanisms and defensive responses in threatening situations (decrease reactivity with ‘fight or flight mode’).
- Links with people who suffer from migraines.
- Short sleep duration and reduced REM sleep associated with excess weight.
We produce the greatest amount of melatonin between 10pm and 2am; in fact, around 80% of the melatonin we produce is produced during this time. Melatonin influences Human Growth Hormone (HGH) secretion. HGH is used to help the body burn fat, repair collagen, regenerate lean body tissue, improve bone density, enhance immunity and repair cells. Another reason to get a good night’s sleep regularly!