When we think of fitness, the things that probably leap into our minds are exercise, supplements, nutrition and mental health, among others. But how many of us consider how important proper rest is in our overall fitness equation?
Sleep is extremely important in the fitness chain, and on many fronts. It is imperative, in fact, that we focus on getting not just more sleep, but better quality of sleep. If you doubt that, let’s examine five studies from the past year along regarding the importance of sleep.
Losing Just 30 Minutes of Sleep Per Day Actually Contributes to Weight Gain
According to a study published in Endocrine Society, missing 30 minutes of sleep each day can really create some long term negative metabolic effects. Researchers found that losing that little amount equated to weight gain and persons becoming 72 percent more likely to be obese.
“Our findings suggest that avoiding sleep debt could have positive benefits for waistlines and metabolism and that incorporating sleep into lifestyle interventions for weight loss and diabetes might improve their success,” Dr. Shahrad Taheri explained.
Less Than 5 Hours of Sleep Contributes to Coronary Artery Calcium
A study by the American Heart Association examined more than 47,000 adults and found that those who slept less than five hours a day had up to 50 percent more coronary artery calcium compared to people who slept seven-plus hours. In addition to that, sleeping more than nine hours contributed to 70 percent more coronary calcium than those who slept just seven hours.
“Overall, we saw the lowest levels of vascular disease in adults sleeping seven hours a day and reporting good sleep quality,” explained Dr. Yoosoo Chang helped, one of the study’s authors.
Going to Pull an All-Nighter? Better Think About That
Research published in eLife found that all-nighters are more likely to have the opposite effect of what you want them to if you are trying to remember and retain as much information as possible.
Research on flies shows that when your brain goes into a memory consolidation mode it inhibits wakefulness – in other words, makes you sleepy. This means that our brain consolidates memories when we are sleeping, so the best study/memorization tactic might be to learn something complex and then take a nap.
Graduate student Bethany Christmann explained, “It’s almost as if that section of the mushroom body [similar to the hippocampus in humans] were saying ‘hey, stay awake and learn this.’ Then, after a while, the DPM neurons start signaling to suppress that section, as if to say ‘you’re going to need sleep if you want to remember this later.’”
Feel a Cold Coming On? Prioritize Sleep!
According to research in SLEEP, those who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night are about four times more likely to catch a cold after being exposed to the cold/flu virus.
So, while sleep is vitally important in helping our brains process memories, it is also important in assisting our immune system to run at full capacity.
“Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects’ likelihood of catching cold,” Dr. Aric Prather explained. “It didn’t matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education or income.”
The New Rules On Sleep: How much do you need?
While there have been federal guidelines for some time, these new ones were updated to include people of all ages.
“We still have a great deal to learn about the function of sleep. We know it’s restorative and important for memory consolidation. But we don’t know the details of what the function of sleep is, even though it is how we spend one-third of our lives,” says Neuroendocrinologist Dr. Lydia Don Carlos.
Here are the new recommendations made by an expert panel at the National Sleep Foundation:
— 0-3 months: 14-17 hours each day (previously 12-18)
— 4-11 months: 12-15 hours (previously 14-15)
— 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (previously 12-14)
— 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (previously 11-13)
— 6-13 years: 9-11 hours (previously 10-11)
— 14-17 years: 8-10 hours (previously 8.5-9.5)
— 18-25 years: 7-9 hours (new age category)
— 26-64 years: 7-9 hours (no change)
— 65+ years: 7-8 hours (new age category)
What do you think about the importance of sleep to fitness now? It really is a big deal, isn’t it? Well-rested active ladies will make the best gains and in a shorter amount of time, all the while maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, body weight and immune system.
Clearly, sleep should be at the top of your “To-Do” list this year!
Josh Anderson (M.S., Personal Trainer) is the founder and editor of DIY Active: “Fit.Food.Life. No Gym Required.” He enjoys blending the latest science with fitness practices to help you exercise smarter.
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