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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.

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Not Seeing Results from your Training Program? Here's Why


 

Written by Matt Stuhmcke

Eat Run Lift's strength training & female fitness coach. Matt is available as a specialist trainer both in studio and online.
Learn more about Matt here>
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How many times have you decided to start working out, then given up because you didn’t get the results you wanted?

Here is the hard truth about why it happens.

1. You don’t really have a program!

It’s all well and good to head into the gym, set up at home or in the park and do a workout. If that's what you’re doing then well done, I am already proud of you! But how much are you really getting out of just doing what you feel like on the day, are you progressing? 

If you are training already, you probably want it all. You want to lose weight and maybe see some abs, get stronger and lift some heavy weights... all at the same time. It's definitely possible, but it's not going to happen without some forethought. How does one workout affect the next? Is my focus on cardio affecting my strength training or vice versa? And at the end of the day, how does everything I do affect my ultimate goal?

Which brings me to my next point...
 

2. You don’t actually have a goal!

Now this one seems obvious, but you would be surprised how many people I talk to don't have a specific goal they want to work towards. Focus on the word specific in that sentence. Saying your goal is something like “be healthy”, “lose weight” or “get stronger” is a good start, but you need to go further and think about specifics.

The key to a successful training program is creating an achievable and specific goal. Anyone can “lose weight’ or ‘get stronger’, but how much weight exactly?  Where do you want be stronger? Do you want to barbell squat your bodyweight, do a set of chin ups un-assisted or be able to do push-ups from your feet. These are all specific and measurable goals, but it's not just down to that, you need to think about when, or how quickly, you want to achieve your goal. Maybe you want to look amazing in the outfit for your best friends birthday, or have an awesome summer body. Whatever the reason may be, having a date set out will provide you that extra push to achieve the goal.

By creating a specific goal, and a specific time frame, you can customise any training program to get you there as quickly and efficiently as possible. This brings us to number 3 on the list….


3. You’re scared of pushing yourself.

I’ll be the first to admit that training can be scary. Some people might be scared of the weights, for others it’s a fear of failure. Regardless of your fear, learning to embrace, and push past it will be the best thing you can do to ensure you improve in your training. There are many different strategies to overcoming your fear, whether it's a daily reminder of your goals on your phone or a note on your mirror so it's the first thing you see in the morning. Any reminder that keeps the ‘WHY’ in the forefront of your mind will be your most powerful tool.

Everyone has fear, and each person deals with it in their own way. Just don’t let it stop you. If you can accept the fear for what it is…an emotion, and continue to work towards your goals, then you will overcome it; you will beat it.


4. You don’t have the right knowledge or motivation.

You have set your goal, you know where you want to finish, but you don’t know how to get there. So you keep doing the same things. You need some extra knowledge and motivation to help you get there. You're lucky though, the world we live in today means that information is literally in your pocket all day. You can check out different resources like blogs, journal articles, “how to” videos or get the help of the people putting that information out there.

This is exactly why we designed our Eat Run Lift online coaching system – a tailored program from a fitness specialist that you can trust (I am one of the Eat Run Lift specialists offering online coaching, you can email me directly through here if you'd like to learn more). An online coach will create a program to suit your goals and how you like to train, while providing the knowledge to guide you through new exercises and training styles, and keep you on track and motivated. We believe everyone should have access to the same amount of care and commitment when it comes to their health and fitness. We’re here to help you to overcome any limitation, any obstacle that has been holding you back. Your trainer should feel more like a coach, a mentor, a friend - someone who takes time to take into account your health, your fitness and your lifestyle. Your biggest commitment in life should be your health and fitness, so you should feel certain that your coach is there for you, with all the same service you would experience at our Brisbane studio.