The Science of Sleep: The Benefits of Getting Your Beauty Rest

By Perrin Braun, August 1, 2022


Would you like to have more energy, improve your memory, reduce your appetite, and improve your athletic performance? One simple change can help you to do all these things: getting more sleep.image

Athletes, for example, spend a considerable amount of time and money trying to find the right sports drink, nutrition bar, or protein powder that could give them the extra edge during a competition. But an extra hour of sleep each night might be a better way to improve athletic performance than any product on the market! Getting enough good sleep can help to boost your speed, accuracy, and reaction time.  If you are sleeping poorly, InsideTracker blood analysis can identify nutrient deficiencies and provide recommendations for how to improve your sleep.

How does sleep affect you?

Not only can too little sleep make you feel tired the next day, but it can also have a big impact about what’s going on inside of your body. Sleep is the time for your body to complete all the phases that are needed to repair your muscles and release hormones that regulate your growth and appetite. If we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t have enough time to recover. Here are the specific ways that sleep deprivation can ruin your game:

  • Decreased energy – when you’re sleep deprived, your body’s ability to store glycogen diminishes. Your body converts glycogen to glucose (a type of sugar), which your muscles use as a primary source of fuel during exercise. Glycogen is particularly important for giving your body the energy that it needs for endurance events, so if you don’t get enough sleep, you will probably feel less energetic than usual whether you are competing in a road race or juggling tasks at work.
  • Poor reflexes – getting an insufficient amount of sleep can slow your reaction time. One study showed declines in split-second decision-making following poor sleep, and showed that subjects who were well rested had increased accuracy on tasks that required quick decisions.
  • Hormone changes – some research suggests that sleep deprivation increases levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can impede healing, increase the risk of injuries, and worsen memory. Additionally, it decreases levels of growth hormone that helps repair the body, which could prevent an athlete from recovering adequately from heavy training and further increase the risk of injury.

Conversely, getting enough sleep can have some great benefits: improved athletic performance, reduced appetite, and better memory function. Stanford University tracked the sleep habits of the school’s basketball team and found that players increased their speed by 5% when they added an average of two hours of sleep each night.

Studies have also shown that adequate sleep reduces feelings of hunger and helps to control appetite. When you are well rested, you are better able to focus and to learn more efficiently.

How much sleep do you need?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the amount of sleep that you need depends on your age, lifestyle, and health. Generally, most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night, but athletes might actually require more because all the stress and practices require more recovery time. Pay attention to how you’re feeling in order to effectively gauge if you’re getting enough sleep. Most people feel drowsy during the early afternoon, but if you find yourself consistently falling asleep during the day, you might be sleep deprived. 

While it is important to get enough sleep, keep in mind that not all sleep is created equal. Sleep occurs in a series of repeating stages that are actually very different from each other, but all play an important role in helping you feel well rested. The stages are transition to sleep, light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. You sleep in cycles during the night, moving back and forth between deep sleep and REM sleep.

However, if you’re still having trouble waking up in the morning and staying awake throughout the day despite giving yourself plenty of time for sleep, you might not be spending enough time in the different stages. Deep sleep and REM sleep play especially important roles in self-repair.  In deep sleep, blood flow to your muscles increases, which helps to restore energy and to repair tissue.  Consolidation of different types of memories occurs in both deep sleep and in REM sleep.

How does nutrition play a role in sleep?

Nutrition and sleep directly affect each other. Studies suggest that magnesium plays a role in sleep. Magnesium is considered to be an “anti-stress” mineral because it works to calm the nerves and relax the muscles, which in turn can help people fall asleep. InsideTracker Fitness and Performance Plans measure magnesium in your blood. If your level is below optimal, InsideTracker will recommend foods that are good sources of magnesium, such as leafy green vegetables, whole grain cereals, nuts, and seafood. For even more food suggestions that will help you to optimize your magnesium levels, explore your InsideTracker Nutrition and Food Menu pages. InsideTracker will also suggest lifestyle and exercise modifications that can help to improve your sleep.

Your eating and sleeping habits can interact in other ways. Overeating, for example, increases your risk for weight gain and sleep apnea, a condition that is characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep. For some people, eating fatty or spicy foods at night can increase the risk for conditions that may disrupt sleep, such as acid reflux, heartburn, gas, and cramping. When you sleep poorly, you feel more hunger and tend to eat more. Getting more good sleep will reduce your appetite

How can you improve your sleep?

Getting enough sleep may be challenging, especially if you are juggling between exercise, work, and family obligations. Here are some ways to sleep better:

  • Keep a regular schedule - go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
  • Get regular aerobic exercise, but avoid intense exercise within 4 hours of bedtime
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet, and use it mainly for sleep and sex
  • Set – and stick to – a time to shutdown computer, email and television at night
  • Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake. These substances are known for disrupting your sleep!
  • When you travel, it’s important to give yourself enough time to acclimate, especially if you are traveling for an athletic competition or are traveling across time zones. If you can, try to get to the event a few days earlier so your body has time to get back on a normal schedule.
  • Avoid sleep medications unless a doctor prescribes them. Over the counter sleep aids can actually disrupt the quality of your sleep and may make you feel groggy the next day. Instead of taking medications, try some deep breathing techniques or do something that relaxes you before going to bed.
  • Get an InsideTracker blood analysis to see how your biochemical status may be affecting your sleep.

Remember, adequate sleep is an essential part of living a healthy life and of achieving your athletic goals!

 Is Your Sleep Optimized?


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