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The Science of Sleep: Exercise Performance and Recovery

According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. Sleep plays an important part in exercise performance and recovery. While you sleep, your body is restoring your immune and endocrine systems, as well as regulating brain function. That sweet spot, REM sleep, can increase protein synthesis and move fatty acids to provide you with the energy you need to help repair the muscles you broke down during your workout.

The Perceived Rate of Exertion poster hanging on the wall at the gym is a helpful tool. When you exercise following a bad night of sleep, you feel like you’re working harder. This can lead to being fatigued sooner and missing out on the intensity and duration of your workout. On the flip side, working out can assist in getting better sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “moderate-to-vigorous exercise can increase sleep quality for adults by reducing sleep onset – or the time it takes to fall asleep – and decrease the amount of time they lie awake in bed during the night.” Not getting enough sleep can create a vicious cycle when it comes to health and fitness.

If you’re working out, you’re probably hoping workouts contribute to, not only your health but also your physique. If your goal is to shed a few pounds, sleep will play a critical role in your weight loss success. The National Sleep Foundation states, “Sleep plays a vital role in regulating hormone levels, including the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which are integral to hunger and appetite. Ghrelin is closely related to hunger while leptin is tied to feeling full. A lack of sleep has been found to trigger increased levels of ghrelin and decreased levels of leptin, leading to increased hunger and appetite.”

Getting restorative sleep isn’t just about going to bed on time and getting the long-sought-after requisite sleep. Sometimes we get what we feel is enough and still feel tired the next day. This can be caused by several things, but one of the most common reasons is poor sleep efficiency. That snoring your partner hears at night couldbe a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and it can be preventing you from having a restful night of sleep. An OSA diagnosis can be as simple as an overnight test in the comfort of your own bed, utilizing a Home Sleep Apnea Test (HSAT). Josh Hoagland, RPSGT CCSH, a sleep technologist certified in clinical sleep health, from Common Sleep in Springfield, MO, explains that the HSAT is a simple data recorder that records data while you are sleeping. Physiological channels recorded include respiratory effort, oxygen saturation, pulse rate, nasal airflow, snoring, and body position. Once you receive the physician’s interpretation from your HSAT, you’ll know whether further testing or treatment is necessary. Treatments for OSA can include PAP Therapy (positive airway pressure), oral devices, or lifestyle management. Seeing a sleep specialist will ensure you get the treatment or advice needed to improve your athletic performance and your life.

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