Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Get Some Sleep zzzzzzzzzzzz

                        You need sleep to unveil your six-pack.


That's because lack of shut-eye may disrupt the hormones that control your ability to burn fat. Now I know this is one of the busiest times of the year, and I know a good nights sleep is hard to get, but consider this, University of Chicago scientists recently found that just 3 nights of poor sleep may cause your muscle cells to become resistant to the hormone insulin. Over time, this leads to fat storage around your belly. It may seem obvious that sleep is beneficial. Even without fully grasping what sleep does for us, we know that going without sleep for too long makes us feel terrible, and that getting a good night's sleep can make us feel ready to take on the world. Scientists have gone to great lengths to fully understand sleep's benefits. In studies of humans and other animals, they have discovered that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions.


http://www.freecoloringpagefun.com/misc/goodnight/sleeping.jpgWhile we don't think about why we sleep, most of us acknowledge at some level that sleep makes us feel better. We feel more alert, more energetic, happier after a good night's sleep. However, the fact that sleep makes us feel better and that going without sleep makes us feel worse only begins to explain why sleep might be necessary. One way to think about the function of sleep is to compare it to another of our life-sustaining activities, eating. Hunger is a protective mechanism that has evolved to ensure that we consume the nutrients our bodies require to grow, repair tissues, and function properly. It involves physically consuming the substances our bodies need. Both eating and sleeping are regulated by powerful internal drives. Going without food produces the uncomfortable sensation of hunger, while going without sleep makes us feel overwhelmingly sleepy, and just as eating relieves hunger and ensures that we obtain the nutrients we need, sleeping relieves sleepiness and ensures that we obtain the alertness we need. Still, the question remains: Why do we need sleep at all? Is there a single primary function of sleep, or does sleep serve many functions?


Scientists have explored the question of why we sleep from many different angles. They have examined, for example, what happens when humans or other animals are deprived of sleep. In other studies, they have looked at sleep patterns in a variety of organisms to see if similarities or differences among species might reveal something about sleep's functions. Yet, despite decades of research and many discoveries about other aspects of sleep, the question of why we sleep has been difficult to answer. The hope is that by better understanding why we sleep, we will learn to respect sleep's functions more and enjoy the health benefits it affords.
i_characteristics5.jpgAlthough it may be less apparent to people living in societies in which food sources are plentiful, one of the strongest factors in natural selection is competition for and effective utilization of energy resources. The energy conservation theory suggests that the primary function of sleep is to reduce an individual’s energy demand and expenditure during part of the day or night, especially at times when it is least efficient to search for food. Another explanation for why we sleep is based on the long-held belief that sleep in some way serves to restore what is lost in the body while we are awake. Sleep provides an opportunity for the body to repair and rejuvenate itself. This is supported by findings that many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep. It may not be surprising that it is more difficult to take in new information following a night of inadequate or disturbed sleep. What's more surprising is that it is just as important to get a good night's sleep after learning something new in order to process and retain the information that has been learned. Other rejuvenating aspects of sleep are specific to the brain and cognitive function. For example, while we are awake, neurons in the brain produce adenosine, a by-product of the cell's activities. The build-up of adenosine in the brain is thought to be one factor that leads to our perception of being tired. Scientists think that this build-up of adenosine during wakefulness may promote the drive to sleep. As long as we are awake, adenosine accumulates and remains high. During sleep, the body has a chance to clear adenosine from the system, and, as a result, we feel more alert when we wake.

Sleep, learning, and memory are complex phenomena that are not entirely understood. However, animal and human studies suggest that the quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on learning and memory. Sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. First, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Second, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information. Although the exact mechanisms are not known, learning and memory are often described in terms of three functions. Acquisition refers to the introduction of new information into the brain. Consolidation represents the processes by which a memory becomes stable. Recall refers to the ability to access the information (whether consciously or unconsciously) after it has been stored. Each of these steps is necessary for proper memory function. Acquisition and recall occur only during wakefulness, but research suggests that memory consolidation takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories. Although there is no consensus about how sleep makes this process possible, many researchers think that specific characteristics of brainwaves during different stages of sleep are associated with the formation of particular types of memory. Another area that researchers study is the impact that a lack of adequate sleep has on learning and memory.
 
When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information, also, our interpretation of events may be affected. We lose our ability to make sound decisions because we can no longer accurately assess the situation, plan accordingly, and choose the correct behavior. Judgment becomes impaired. Being chronically tired to the point of fatigue or exhaustion means that we are less likely to perform well. Neurons do not fire optimally, muscles are not rested, and the body’s organ systems are not synchronized. Lapses in focus from sleep deprivation can even result in accidents or injury.




Athletes who get extra shut-eye over an extended period of time could see significant improvement in their athletic performance, mood, and alertness, research shows. Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, said our results begin to elucidate the importance of sleep on athletic performance and more specifically, how sleep is a significant factor to peak athletic performance." In an ongoing study, Mah and colleagues are testing the impact of extra sleep on five healthy students on the Stanford University men's and women's swimming teams. For the first two weeks of the study, the swimmers maintained their usual sleep-wake pattern. The athletes then extended their sleep to 10 hours per day for 6 to 7 weeks. 

Athletic performance, assessed after each regularly scheduled swim practice, showed marked improvement with the extra sleep.Various drills including reaction time off the block, 15-meter sprint, and turn time improved while kick strokes increased with extra sleep," she said. Specifically, after obtaining extra sleep, athletes swam a 15-meter sprint 0.51 seconds faster, reacted 0.15 second quicker off the blocks, improved turn time by 0.10 seconds and increased kick strokes by 5 kicks. "Athletes also experienced decreased fatigue and increased energy as well as decreased daytime sleepiness," according to Mah. While this study focuses specifically on collegiate swimmers, it supports data from Mah’s other studies in different sports. For example, in a study involving six players on the Stanford men’s basketball team, sprint times and free-throw shooting improved with extra sleep, as did ratings of mood and alertness. Taken together, this data suggest s "that athletes across all sports can greatly benefit from extra sleep and gain an additional competitive edge to perform at their highest level," Mah said. Also worth noting Professor Mah said "many of the athletes in various sports I have worked with, including the swimmers in this study, have set multiple new personal records and season best times, as well as broken long-standing Stanford and American records while participating in this study."

So there you have it. Sleep good, No sleep bad. The best way I've found to get a good night's sleep is to sleep with someone else. Or if you're by yourself, review your next day goals at least 15 minutes before bedtime, and while you're at it, write down your plans for the next day, as well as any personal chores you need to accomplish. This can help prevent you from lying awake worrying about what your forgetting to do tomorrow which can cut into quality snooze time. A cup of organic chamomile tea before bed doesn't hurt either. Then relax and get some sleep. Good Luck...









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