Lack of Sleep: It Affects Your Brain & Your Training

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This post is going to cover the ins and outs of sleep deprivation, looking at how it affects your brain, and then how a lack of sleep can also impact your training. We’ve all been there, the odd late night or early morning; but there comes a point during that day where it instantly catches up with you and you remember just how little sleep you’ve actually had.

There are many, many effects that a lack of sleep can cause, ranging from general productivity loss, to your wider health and general well-being. Of course, it goes without saying that without the correct and proper sleep, we cannot perform as normal, but just how much of an impact can inadequate sleep really have on the body?

 

The Effects of Insufficient Sleep on the Brain

Are you sitting down? If not, you might want to for this next piece of information. A recent study, conducted just last year (2017) in Italy, revealed that depriving yourself of sleep can result in your brain cells consuming parts of their own synapses.

These brain cells are also known as astrocytes and it their primary responsibility to get rid of the worn-out cells, However, following a period of sleep deprivation, these cells actually eat the brains synapses. Another significant effect of sleep deprivation on the brain is a sharp increase in anxiety and anger. This is because the amygdala which is a specific part of the brain that is responsible for controlling emotions is also heavily impacted as well. This results in the generation of a more emotionally charged response when we are faced with negative stimulation, it makes staying in control of your emotions even more of a challenge.

And, it doesn’t end there...

There is another part of the brain that is severely affected by a lack of sleep. This has another interesting name, and its called the Hippocampus. This is essentially what controls your ability to store new memories. I’m sure you can relate to this; it is the reasons why it is very hard to take on new information and retain that information when you are tired or haven’t slept well the night before.

Everything from problem solving, controlling emotions, making decisions, and remembering information is affected when you do not get enough sleep.

While everyone is different, and some people suggest they can survive on just 4-5 hours per night; there are others who feel they need between 7-9 hours per night in order to get enough rest. The optimal amount of sleep has not been clinically defined, but for most people, around 7-9 hours is the average accepted count.

 

How A Lack of Sleep Impacts Your Training

Getting the right amount of sleep is vital when it comes to your training regime. With enough, your performance, results, and recovery are all going to be affected.

It goes without saying that there are always going to be occasions where you simply cannot get the required 7-9 hours. However, if this starts to occur more frequently, and even takes on form as a regular occurrence, you will find that your levels of energy are unable to be sustained, you will have less motivation, and your recovery rate will be much slower.

Metabolism

If you don’t get enough sleep, your body will produce less of a specific hormone called leptin. Leptin is a key hormone that helps you to feel full; with less of this in your body you are more likely to want to eat more, thus thwarting your chances of keeping your weight under control. According to scientific research, another hormonal consequence of not sleeping is enough is the increase it will cause to your levels of ghrelin, and this will actually make you want to eat more. The overriding result of both these factors is weight gain.

Energy and Motivation

It goes without saying that sustaining energy and motivation without sleep is tough. Your workout will be restricted if you are deprived of sleep, which can seriously hamper your progress. Just a single night of sleep deprivation has been scientifically proven to affect your anaerobic abilities for up to 36 hours following that period of inadequate sleep. Energy levels are also impaired as a result and your peak of energy following a period of sleep deprivation will be much lower than normal.

Muscle Strength and Repair

By not getting enough sleep, you will limit your progress. During a normal night’s sleep, a growth hormone that strengthens your muscles and bones is released into your body. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will significantly reduce the availability of this hormone in the body, which negatively affects the body’s natural ability to recover and repair the muscles. Don’t underestimate the importance of the Human Growth Hormone; without it, you will limit your ability to lift weights and recover easily following intense workouts.

Performance

Last, but by no means least, is physical performance. As I have already covered, both motivation and energy are both affected by inadequate sleep. However, one of the biggest impacts is on performance. The easiest way to explain this is to provide you with a tangible study that was conducted at Stanford University, the results of which were measured over a 2-4 week period Basketball players were asked to increase their sleep time to ten hours per night, compared to their normal average of 6-8 hours. After sleeping more, their recorded times for sprinting increased significantly. The accuracy was also improved with a demonstrated increased of almost 10% which came about as a result of their sharper focus and enhanced levels of concentration.

 

As you can see, insufficient sleep can really wreak havoc on the body, both mentally and physically.

It also goes a few steps further by speeding up the aging process, it can cause depression, and impact the immune system, which as we know all too well, can also affect your ability to train hard and stay fit.

In quick summary, skipping sleep just isn’t worth it. It is just as important to your health and wellbeing as what you eat, and how much you exercise.