As we honor the working man and woman this Labor Day, also remember to honor your body. After all, it is working 24/7 to keep you looking and feeling good. What better way to do this than by getting some well-deserved shut-eye?
Exercise and sleep go hand-in-hand. In order to really rest and restore your body, you need deep sleep, or what professionals call “slow wave sleep.”
Slow wave sleep is the third and fourth stage of nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, which occurs 75% of the night (stage 1 is light sleep between being awake and not awake; stage 2 is the onset of sleep when your breathing and heart rate is regular). When you are in a deep sleep, your body literally restores itself (sort of like the cop in The Terminator — well, maybe not exactly).
The pituitary gland releases growth hormones that stimulate tissue growth and muscle repair. Your energy is restored, the blood supply to your muscles increase, your muscles are relaxed and your blood pressure drops. It helps you look healthier (see our Top 5 tips on beauty sleep here) and some research suggests that deep sleep even may help the body defend itself against infection.
If you are not getting enough deep sleep time, new research by Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association warns that you are at risk of developing high blood pressure. Men are at a greater risk than women for the spike.
Make sleep an important part of your fitness plan
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which recently published a study documenting how extended sleep improves athletic performance in college basketball players, longer amounts of time sleeping improves athletic performance, reaction time, vigor, fatigue and mood.
Cheri D. Mah, MS, lead author of the study and researcher at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory in Stanford, Calif., offers these tips to help athletes improve their performance by maximizing their sleep:
Prioritize sleep as a part of your regular training regimen;
Extend nightly sleep for several weeks to reduce your sleep debt before competition;
Maintain a low sleep debt by obtaining a sufficient amount of nightly sleep (seven to nine hours for adults, nine or more hours for teens and young adults);
Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day; and
Take brief 20-30 minute naps to obtain additional sleep during the day, especially if drowsy.
Need some sleepy inspiration? Check out our tips on how rest and relaxation can help you shed the pounds.