Why You Should Be Getting More Sleep

Post Attributed to Jonathan Castillo, FAST Facility Manager, BS, PES, USAW (Tempe location).

Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST) is one of Arizona’s premier sports performance facilities with 10 locations providing AZ sports medicine and personal training. FAST is geared toward optimizing the perfect fitness plan for individuals of all ages and fitness levels, and we offer personal, group, and sports-specific training. Our trainers use hands-on, personalized techniques to help you achieve your fitness goals, and you can schedule a free consultation with one of them by going online here. Feel free to contact us or follow our blog for the latest news on AZ sports medicine.

Jonathan Castillo, BS, PES, USAW, and facility manager at our Tempe location, is a Performance Enhancement Specialist who has actively competed in football, wrestling, and Olympic weightlifting—experiences that have made him understand the significance of a full night of sleep. He is here to discuss the importance of sleep and how to strategize for a better night’s rest.

The effects of sleep deprivation

Demanding schedules have left many of us unsatisfied with the amount of sleep we’re getting. The longer you go without sleep, the more sleep you’ll lose as your body builds up a serious sleep deficit. Not to mention a lack of sleep puts a wrench in your fitness productivity.

It’s very important to prioritize sleep. According to a 2011 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 25% of the U.S. population reports not getting enough sleep and almost 10% suffer from chronic insomnia. In fact, the number of sleep deprived Americans is estimated to be between 50-70 million people.

For many of you, these numbers may not seem surprising and won’t be enough to create some sort of behavioral change, but consider these implications of sleep deprivation:

  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • A weakening of your immune system, increasing your chance of becoming sick
  • Increase in your perception of pain
  • Fatigue
  • Severe weight gain
  • Heart disease, heart attacks, hypertension, diabetes
  • Decrease in testosterone

Sleep deprivation creates a hazard for others around you as well. For example, 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,550 deaths were accounted for due to driver fatigue. Where do you think the fatigue comes from [1]?

From a training perspective, sleep deprivation increases a stress hormone called cortisol, which if frequently released can lead to suppressed thyroid function, and a decrease in bone density and muscle tissue. This can ultimately hinder recovery from hard training bouts and increase the risk of injury and sickness.

How much sleep do we need?

How much sleep we need varies between individuals, but generally changes as we age. The National Institute of Health suggests that school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily, teens 9-10 hours, and adults 7-8 hours [2]. Now, throw in some serious athletic training or general physical activity and your need for sleep becomes increasingly higher. During the course of putting physical stress on the body, your muscle tissues are being broken down, cortisol levels are increasing, and your nervous system needs to recharge. All of this is mended in your sleep. Naturally, the more stress added, the more time it’s going to take to repair all of your bodily processes.

Benefits of Good Sleep

So now that you have an understanding of how much harm a lack of sleep can cause, imagine all of the benefits you receive from actually prioritizing your sleep. For example, researchers at the University of California Berkeley found that in the non-REM phase of sleep (known for being light and dreamless) our brain processes “sleep-spindles.” During this phase, our brain takes facts stored in the hippocampus, processes them, and relocates them to our prefrontal cortex. This essentially frees up space in our hippocampus to take in new information while we are awake. Moreover, the researchers at UC Berkeley also believe that napping during the day refreshes those spindles. In other words, you sleep to make space so that you can learn more and get smarter [3].

Other known benefits of being well-rested include:

  • Improved heart health
  • May prevent cancer
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Better cognitive function
  • Bolstered memory
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced risk of depression
  • Bodily repair [4]

How to get a better night’s rest:

  1. Take a hot shower.
  2. Set a regular bedtime. Consistency is key. Train your body when to shut down and it’ll listen.
  3. Turn off all the lights. Even small LED lights should be covered or shut off.
  4. Give yourself about an hour or two without any electronic devices in your face. No Facebook before bed!
  5. Read a book before bed.
  6. Stretching after a hot shower is a good way to get your body to relax and recover well during sleep.
  7. Have some warm tea.

As much as training and nutrition are key elements to living a healthy lifestyle, they weigh heavily on the quality of your sleep. Try to think about your sleeping habits now, and if there are ways you can improve. Typically there’s always something you can do better. I hope this was helpful to all you fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike.

Happy Dreaming and Sweet Z’s!

Jonathan Castillo

PES, CPT, USAW, Crossfit L1 | Ahwatukee

Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST) is empowered by Foothills Therapy Partners (FTP).