A quality Sleep: Under-rated and Un-explored vertical of fitness goals (Part 1)

Author: Subia Khan , Content writer@ INFS

Most of the people train hard at gym, stick to their nutrition plans, stay pretty active for the day yet fail to see results at the pace it should be. Why?

Because a sound and timed sleep is highly under-rated by a majority of us, especially the young population, adolescents, working professionals etc. Sleep is a necessity for maintaining a good physical, mental and emotional health; as much as a quantified nutrition and adequate exercise is.

Major causes of sleep deprivation:

1. Long work hours, working in shifts along with commuting time.
2. Night life: Continued late hour social gathering / celebrations / hang outs etc. set reduced sleep hours as default in most individuals.
3. Technology and gadgets: Getting stuck to technology and gadgets during bed time is a building block laid towards a poor health.
4. “If you snooze, you lose” – the unsaid stress!

While most of us believe that our sleep time is absolutely fine and adequate as long as there is no problem in our everyday chores or causes any negative outcome; it actually doesn’t hold true in terms of our body and system.

Human Sleeping pattern:

 An Adequate sleep time for adults range from 6 – 8 hours.

Human sleeping pattern is cyclic in nature comprising of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) followed by a wake, more often with 8 alternating cycles in one quality sleep. In most simple words, NREM is the cycle characterized for deep sleep (Slow wave sleep) while REM is towards dreams, wakefulness and active mind. Each REM cycle generally lasts for 90-110 minutes average.

Sleep Wake Regulation:

Sleep–wake regulation of our body happens through two processes: Homeostatic process and a circadian process (Circadian Rhythm / Biological Clock). Together they work towards inducing sleep or wakefulness.

The homeostatic system works towards getting sleep when signaled by body; basically indicating a must have rest period. After reaching a certain threshold sleep becomes inevitable and below a certain threshold wakefulness is signaled.

A sleep deprived individual gets into a sleep debt (lack of sleep accumulated across many hours / days) eventually and hence homeostatic pressure signals body for a rest.

Each individual has a circadian rhythm; our body’s biological clock for 24 hours located in the hypothalamic supra-chiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which sets as per our routine and comes natural to each of us.

Our body signals a wakeup call or hunger or tiredness or sleep etc. as per this rhythm / internal clock. Our circadian rhythm is synced well with our body’s homeostatic process, works in line with it signaling a rest or wakeup call. In case of a deviation from fixed routine our body’s internal clock gets disturbed and system responds to fight the change.

Sleep Disorders:

It has been said that human can survive without food for a longer time than surviving without sleep!

Continued sleep deprivation can result in many disorders – to state a few below;

1.Narcolepsy: A neurological disorder that affects the control of sleep and wake-up. Major symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness in scattered intervals across the say.

2. Sleep Apnoea: Respiratory airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing or completely stopping the airflow.

3. Insomnia: Sleep disorder where a person finds it tough to fall asleep or stay asleep else both. Waking up many times during the night and finding it difficult to sleep again and tiredness upon waking are the major symptoms. Insomnia is a growing disorder in many people. Lifestyle pattern, stress and anxiety level are the major causes for insomnia.

4. Restless Limb Syndrome: It is a nervous system disorder causing an urge to move limbs (hands and legs – majorly legs). It usually interferes with sleep and worsens in sleeping hours. Hence is considered as a sleepdisorder.

These disorders can either be cured with time through lifestyle changes and by improving sleep quality. Extreme or prolonged episodes of such disorders also demand medication.

Measures to ensure an adequate sleep:

1. The more stable and consistent our circadian rhythm is, the better our sleep is. Hence sticking to a fixed routine helps getting quality sleep.
2. Block your Clock: Sticking to a fixed sleep and wakeup time helps. With exception to occasions and contingencies, setting the clock for going to bed helps.
3. Avoiding Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine, Smoke towards sleeping hours is highly recommended.
 Caffeine can stay in system for hours affecting next day performance. It is easier to tame mind and go off to sleep after having a cup of coffee; however it is not possible to stop the systems churning once caffeine enters the system and generates stimulus.
b. Alcohol might generate a sedative effect while it is consumed; however later it metabolizes during the sleeping hours thereby affecting the quality of sleep.
4. Eat right: Every individual is aware of his system and how it responds. For e.g. If eating high protein or fat diet towards night causes reflux then it is wise to time the meals according to what best suits the body by shifting protein and fats at least 3 hours before sleeping or else keeping it lesser towards sleeping hours. However the dietary intake and timing of meals is also dependent on the fitness goal the individual is chasing.
5. Free your mind: Psychological stressors and troubles should be side-lined while going to sleep. The switch to thinking cap and stress about next day has to be turned off.
6. Meditation: A short meditation before going to sleep cools down the mind and brings positivity. This improves sleep quality.

To be continued….

The basics of sleep, how it is regulated and what disorders an inadequate sleep can create are clear to us by now. Ahead of these;

It is interesting to know that when we are fast asleep our mind and body isn’t. All our systems function in orderto rejuvenate a tired body, perform essential cellular and tissue repairs and restore us completely for the upcoming day.

It is even more interesting to know how lack of sleep / poor sleeping pattern can affect body, hamper the health and prolong / delay our fitness goals. The repercussions of a poor and untimed sleep is a must know for fitness enthusiasts!

                         Watch this space in next few days to read more about it!














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