Did you know that getting adequate and good quality sleep has a significant impact on hormone balance and muscle protein synthesis.
Outside of muscle growth, sleep deprivation has also been directly linked to an increase in appetite and as a result an increase in body fat. Because when you are not getting enough quality sleep hormones called Ghrelin and Leptin are affected and can effect our hunger levels.
Poor sleep will also lead to detrimental effects on your immune system
Because sleep helps T cells, a key part of our immune system, get to other places. Having enough T cells around to keep an eye on things means that we’re better able to start an immune response as needed.
But that’s not all. Remember that sleep helps us learn and remember? Well, it works for immune cells too.
Sleep boosts the immune system’s ability to ‘remember’ particular antigens, such as viruses. And more effectively produce antibodies or specific defenses against a particular antigen.
The most beneficial phases of sleep are the 2-3 hours of deep sleep we should experience each night. Deep sleep is very restorative and is where our stress hormone cortisol is at its lowest. And other hormones that support muscle growth are at their most potent.
Phases of sleep and the circadian system affect our immune and inflammatory responses. During this period there are changes to levels of various hormones.
These hormonal changes help boost the adaptive immune response. By helping it learn and “remember” antigens. When we sleep, our immune system is transferring what it’s learned about specific antigens (such as viruses) into its ‘long-term memory’. Which helps it recognize and respond effectively to the same antigens in future.
Cortisol is a stress-response and steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of vital body processes. And, it plays a crucial role in our sleep.
Under normal circumstances, cortisol follows a strong circadian rhythm. It’s highest when we first wake up, and decreases throughout the day.
When we don’t get enough sleep, we see less variation in the circadian rhythm of cortisol. We don’t get the highest highs in the morning, nor does cortisol drop as much in the evening.
This means that we often end up with higher measurements of cortisol after poor sleep because it doesn’t decrease like it should. On top of that, not getting enough sleep is stressful, too!
So, does it matter if we get a bad night’s sleep, or if our cortisol is too high, or both?
Some research has suggested that cortisol could be the factor that links poor sleep to the development of depression. These things often go together.
For instance, a hallmark symptom of depression is changes in sleep. Including more awakenings in the night, difficulty falling asleep, and less deep sleep. Unsurprisingly, people who have depression often also have higher concentrations of cortisol.
If we’re able to improve our sleep and reduce our cortisol levels (i.e., deal with our sleep and stress), it will likely also help us better take care of our emotional, psychological and social well-being.
You can get started on improving your sleep quality by:
- increasing darkness in the bedroom
- have a regular time for going to bed
- remove electrical equipment from the bedroom
- maintain a cool temperature in the bedroom
- use an alarm that will wake you up in a light sleep phase