Benefits of Sleep

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While we are all keen to be active and see the untold benefits from exercise many of us don’t get enough good sleep. This is particularly the case in young athletes and sports people who tend to burn the candle at both ends. Animal studies have shown us that sleep is in fact necessary for our survival. In rat studies it was found that rats normally live for 2-3 years however stopping their REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep) they survived only 5 weeks. Rats that were deprived of all sleep altogether live only about 3 weeks. The rats developed sores and their immune system was affected.

Sleep appears necessary for our nervous systems to work properly. Too little sleep leaves us drowsy and unable to concentrate the next day. It also leads to impaired memory and physical performance and reduced ability to carry out exercise routines. If sleep deprivation continues, hallucinations and mood swings may develop. Some researchers believe sleep gives neurons used while we are awake a chance to shut down and repair themselves. Without sleep, neurons may become so depleted in energy or so polluted with by products of normal cellular activities that they begin to malfunction. Sleep also may give the brain a chance to exercise important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate from lack of activity.

Deep sleep coincides with the release of growth hormone in children and young adults. Many of the body’s cells also show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during deep sleep. Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repair of damage from factors like exercise, stress and the suns rays, deep sleep may truly be the beauty sleep we all need.

Our emotions, decision making processes, social interactions are also affected by lack of sleep. Nerve patterns can also be disturbed when we are lacking good sleep. Exercise can help you sleep sounder and longer and feel more awake throughout the day. The trick is found in the type of exercise we choose and the time you participate in exercise during the day.
Exercising vigorously right before bed or within about three hours before bedtime can actually make it harder to fall asleep. Vigorous exercise right before bed stimulates your heart, brain and muscles. Try to exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime. Exercise also raises your body temperature right before bed which is not what we are after.

By: John Hart

Master Education

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(Source: neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

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