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National Bed Month

Posted on 1st March 2018 by

This month reminds us of how important a good nights’ sleep really is and how it benefits our health, as it’s National Bed Month! 

So what’s so important about sleep?!

 Sleep and the Brain

  • Sleep enhances your learning and problem-solving skills and helps you pay attention, make decisions and be creative.
  • Sleep deficiency can make it difficult to control your emotions and behaviour or cope with change. It has also been linked to depression and risk-taking behaviour.
  • Sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Without it, there is an increased risk of heart/kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
  • Deep sleep triggers the release of hormones that promote healthy growth and development. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells.

Sleep and Athletic Performance

  • Sleep deprivation negatively effects athletic performance, especially in submaximal, prolonged exercise.
  • Compromised sleep can influence learning, memory, cognition, pain perception, immunity and inflammation.
  • Changes in glucose metabolism and neuroendocrine function as a result of chronic, partial sleep deprivation can result in alterations in carbohydrate metabolism, appetite, food intake and protein synthesis.

Sleep and Weight Loss

  • Sleep is crucial in retaining energy and stamina throughout the day.
  • There are two key hormones released when you sleep; ghrelin and leptin.
  • Ghrelin enhances your appetite and leptin suppresses it. A lack of sleep disturbs this natural hormonal balance and can lead to weight gain (or a lack of weight loss).
  • Growth hormone, released in abundance when we sleep, is responsible for facilitating muscle growth and increasing your metabolism which means energy is burned more efficiently and can lead to weight loss.
  • Adequate sleep lowers the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body. Higher cortisol = lower metabolism. More sleep = less cortisol, better weight loss.

Morning Mobility Routine

Laying horizontally for an extended period of time can cause your joints and muscles to feel achy or stiff in the morning. Getting into a morning routine will increase your range of motion, decrease stiffness associated pain and boost the longevity of your global joint health.

  1. After a warm shower, take each major joint through its full, pain-free range of motion.
  2. Gently stretch those achy muscles.
  3. Use a foam roller or tiggerpoint ball to target the areas that need some extra attention.
  4. Perform daily to assist in retaining your range of motion.

6 Tips for a Better Kip

  1. Bedroom – clean, peaceful & welcoming. Achieve complete darkness with blackout blinds. Ideal temperature 16-18° Avoid televisions, computers and any distractions if you can’t nod off. Limit the bedroom for sleep only, it shouldn’t be used for work, watching TV, eating, even talking on the phone.
  2. Bed – comfortable! If you regularly wake up with aches and pains, it may be time to change your mattress. You should consider changing your bed after 7 years.
  3. Lifestyle – today’s typically fast-paced and chaotic lifestyle provides non-stop stimulation from the moment we wake up. Reduce the intensity of artificial light, maintain a regular bed time routine, avoid alcohol/caffeine before bed, switch off your tech, and empty your bladder before sleeping.
  4. Stress & worry – scientific evidence has shown a direct link between anxiety and rhythm of sleep. An alert mind produces beta waves, preventing sleep. To relax, breathe in deeply for 4 seconds and then breathe out slowly. Repeat until you feel your heart rate slowing.
  5. Diet – you are what you eat! Food and drink can have a drastic effect on your sleep. Choose milk, cherries, chicken and rice. Avoid fatty meat, curry and alcohol after 6pm.
  6. Exercise – promote sleep by working out effectively. Don’t work out too aggressively, this will be counterproductive by increasing your alertness. Yoga is renowned for its relaxation and sleep benefits.

Read more about the 4 pillars of a healthy life and ‘being well’ on a previous blog.

Why sleeps the magic elixir for runners.

 


Sleep: The Magic Elixir for Runners

Posted on 19th January 2018 by

I’ve just recently read a great book, titled Why We Sleep, by the neuroscientist, Matthew Waker. Why we sleep

I wanted to share a summary of the relevant sections, which I thought would be enlightening and useful for you keen, active, health conscious runners. If it sparks your interest, I would thoroughly recommend getting hold of a copy to read it in full. It really is fascinating!

Walker explains that:

“Sleep is one of the most important aspects of life, health and longevity and yet it is increasingly neglected in 21st century society”

For the active runner, adequate sleep is crucial to help in learning new motor skills, improving athletic performance and mitigating injury risk!

In the book, Walker explains that the term ‘muscle memory’ is a misnomer, muscles have no such memory, and that in fact ‘muscle memory’ is really ‘brain memory’. As humans, we learn new motor skills and movement routines through practice. For a runner it could be working on running technique, training or strengthening muscles in the gym, which can help us better execute a skilled memory routine (running). But the routine itself – the memory programme resides firmly and exclusively within the brain.

Research over the past 20 years has unequivocally demonstrated that after practicing any motor skill, your brain will continue to improve skill memories in the absence of further practice after a full night sleep. Walker concludes that in fact

“Practice does not make perfect, it is practice followed by a nights sleep that leads to perfection”

Sleep helps the brain automate the movement routines – helping them become second nature and effortless – precisely the goal of many sports coaches when perfecting the skills of their athletes.

The 100-metre sprinter superstar Usain Bolt has, on many occasions taken naps in the hours before breaking the world record and before Olympic finals in which he won gold. The author’s studies support this wisdom: day time naps that contain sufficient numbers of sleep spindles also offer significant motor skill memory improvement, together with a restoring benefit on perceived energy and reduced muscle fatigue.

“Sleep is one of the most sophisticated, potent and powerful – not to mention legal – performance enhancer’s everyone should be using fully”

The book’s findings are backed up with more than 750 scientific studies that have investigated the relationship between sleep and human performance. Anything less than 8 hours of sleep a night and especially less than 6 hours a night and the following can be experienced:

  • Time to physical exhaustion drops by 10 to 30%
  • Aerobic output is significantly reduced
  • Similar impairments are observed in power output, measured by limb extension force & vertical jump height
  • Decrease in peak and sustained muscle strength.
  • Marked impairments in cardio-vascular, metabolic and respiratory capabilities linked to a decrease in the amount of air the lungs can expire
  • The ability of the body to cool itself during physical exertion through sweating, a critical part of peak performance, is impaired

Injury Risk 

There is also a significant increase in the risk of injury with a lack of sleep.

“There is no better insurance policy to mitigate the risk of injury than sleep!”

Described in a research study of competitive young athlete’s in 2014, Walker explains that a chronic lack of sleep across a season predicted a massively higher risk of injury, as illustrated on the graph below.

Sleep and injury risk
Sleep after sporting performance is just as crucial for recovery. The book states that

“Post performance sleep accelerates physical recovery from common inflammation, stimulates muscle repair, and helps restock cellular energy in the form of glucose and glycogen”

What does all this mean for the local fun runner?

Regardless of running ability, sleep is equally important for anyone who is physically active. Until recently the experts thought that adequate sleep, good nutrition and exercise were the 3 fundamentals on which to live a healthy life.

However, through a large body of research over the last 20 years, Walker has highlighted that adequate sleep is the foundation on which being healthy and exercising effectively is built upon.

In other words….without adequate sleep you will not gain the full potential benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise. So, you should be aiming for between 7-8 hours of sleep each night, especially in the midst of a running training programme, to allow your body to recover and achieve the full benefits of training.

For further information, please read Why We Sleep, by Mathew Walker


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