Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Importance of Sleep

By Belinda

(151 lb)

It's been a long time since I've posted but I have still been "stopping the slide." :)

I'm in England on vacation with Mum and will be here for a few more days so I have a little more time to write.

Since I last posted I turned 60 (in June) and decided to take care of a couple of health issues that I had put off for too long. One of them was asking my GP for a referral to a sleep clinic. Paul had been on my case for several years, telling me that I stopped breathing for long periods while asleep, then suddenly gasp for air and start breathing again. He would try to hold his breath as long as I wasn't breathing, and couldn't.

I knew I had a problem only because he told me. He also woke me up several times a night to get me to turn over because I was snoring. I was accustomed to being drowsy and thought it was due to my bad sleeping habits. I tend to be night hawk and on average would get 5 to 6 hours sleep--sometimes less. I never considered that the quality of the sleep I was getting was poor as well. On top of that I couldn't imagine wearing a mask to bed, even if I did have a diagnosed problem.

Now I have been a base line sleep study and follow up appointment during which the doctor confirmed mild sleep apnea. I have been fitted with a mask, (called a C-PAP machine, which stands for Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure, I think) a less intrusive type, especially designed for women (for which I paid a little more but it was worth it.) and gone back for post test, which I have not had the results of. This is to see how much difference the mask has made. I expect I will go back for a final doctor's visit to get the results and see if adjustments to the air pressure in the machine are needed.

The effects of using my C-PAP machine were dramatic and immediate. I straight away felt as though I came alive! I had increased mental focus; energy and confidence and my appearance went from blood shot eyes and a strained, tired look by the end of the day, to bright eyes all day long. My only question was, "Why did I wait so long to take care of this?"

But I really didn't start this post intending to write all about the issue of sleep apnea; I wanted to share some information that I found interesting, which my brother pointed out in The Sun newspaper over here, in a column written by "Coach Ed." He was writing about the importance of a good night's sleep in weight loss and fitness in general.

Growth hormone is the major secretion produced by the body for building muscle and aiding recovery.
GH is anabolic, which means that it helps increase muscle mass. GH also has an effect on fat mobilization and fat deposition. What this basically means is that the more lean muscle mass a person has, the more effective their metabolism is at using calories, leaving the excess fat nowhere to hide. So from this alone you can see that GH is important.
GH is released while we sleep...This is why the night-time sleep is so important.

When we start to sacrifice our sleep we are sacrificing the results we should be getting from all the hard training hours we have put in. Many people ask how many hours they should get--it is hard to say how much each individual needs, but the general school of thought is about eight hours, preferably from 10pm to 6am. It is believed that this time is linked to a greater GH release than having eight hours from midnight to 8am.

Remember this equation: Little sleep + little GH release + inadequate recovery = FAT STORAGE
Losing sleep messes with nutrition and diet. According to Dr. Plamen Penev, from the University of Chicago, when the body starts to lose out on sleep this can prevent fat loss and make the body use less fat for fuel. The lack of sleep slows down the loss of fat and speeds up the undesirable reduction of lean mass. This doesn't help the body's metabolism. Dr. Penev also stated that "sleep loss is accompanied by an increase in hunger that makes it less likely you will stick to good nutritional habits and /or a diet."
Thanks Coach Ed. This is great information to build into our lives! I guess that the old adage about each hour before midnight being worth two after, is really true.

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