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Sleep Science and Swoleness
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By
Jonathan Mike
Published: May 30, 2014Posted in: Columns (http://articles.elitefts.com/category/features/columns/),
Features (http://articles.elitefts.com/category/features/), Rehabilitation (http://articles.elitefts.com/category
/training-articles/rehabilitation/), Training (http://articles.elitefts.com/category/training-articles/)Tags:
hormones (http://articles.elitefts.com/tag/hormones/), Jonathan Mike (http://articles.elitefts.com/tag/jonathan-
mike/), performance (http://articles.elitefts.com/tag/performance/), recovery (http://articles.elitefts.com
/tag/recovery/), sleep (http://articles.elitefts.com/tag/sleep/), Sleep Science and Swoleness
(http://articles.elitefts.com/tag/sleep-science-and-swoleness/)
Hit the sack. Hit the hay. Snooze. Catch some zzzs. Pass out cold. Yes, Im referring to sleep. Its one
of the most important biological states of human and animal existence, yet its simply one of those
things we all take for granted. Sleep is paramount to both mental and physical performance. Whether you
want to get stronger, bigger, or have better body composition, you must get sleep.
Sleep is a fascinating and complex topic that has so much individual variability yet has tremendous impact on
life, stress, and physiological and psychological outcomes. If you dont have insomnia and have been managing
68 hours per night, youre probably thinking that youve been doing good, right? Well, theres much more to the
story. For most of us, we approach and discuss sleep as if its only a single layer of something. But what is
sleep really? Lets discuss and dive deeper into sleep, science, and swoleness.
But first, here are some interesting facts:
Nathaniel Kleitman (born in 1895 in Bessarabianow Moldova) is known as the father of
modern sleep and earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago.
One of his graduate students (Eugene Aserinsky) stumbled on to a great discovery for his
dissertation topic. Kleitmans daughter (Ester) and Aserinsky in 1953 introduced the world to
rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, making sleep a truly scientific field.
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Sleep Science and Swoleness http://articles.elitefts.com/training-articles/sleep-science-and-swoleness/
1 of 12 6/7/2014 10:36 PM
Prior to the invention of the incandescent light bulb, we reportedly got about twelve hours of
nightly sleep on average. Before alarm clocks were invented, there were knocker-ups who
went tapping on clients windows with long sticks until they were awake.
Dogs and cats sleep over 70 percent of their lives.
Man and woman are the only mammals that willingly delay sleep.
Sleep 101
What is sleep? Well for starters, sleep can be defined as a reversible behavioral state in which an individual is
perceptually disengaged from and unresponsive to the environment (11). It is within the suprachiasmatic
nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus (the brain site of our circadian clock) that the circadian rhythm, including
the sleep-wakefulness cycle, is regulated.
Sleep has two primary (and complex) physiological and behavioral states. We know these as rapid eye
movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. NREM sleep is divided into four stages (five if
you count REM) that are linked with a progressive increase in the depth of sleep (11). Heres another factthe
release of certain neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, serotonin, and histamine) is completely shut down during
REM, which produces muscle atonia (a paralysis type of sensation during sleep), bursts of REM, and
dreaming. Therefore, REM sleep is considered to be a condition with an activated brain in a paralyzed body.
Very cool, isnt it?
(http://articles.elitefts.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/sleeping-jon-mike-052914.jpg)
During the night, sleep patterns repeat intermittently, moving sequentially through four stages of non-REM sleep
into REM sleep, which constitutes about 25 percent of total sleep and initially lasts approximately ten minutes
and extends with each repeating cycle, lasting up to an hour in the last phase. During REM sleep, the eyes
move back and forth rapidly and the bodys muscular contraction activity is minimal. There are several stages of
sleep, which has led to a whole taxonomy of sleep. Its important to mention that beta waves are the earliest
stages of sleep because youre still awake and alert while you lay in bed watching episodes of Breaking Bad.
In Stage 1 (as we prepare to drift off), the brain emits alpha and theta waves. This is actually where
daydreaming comes in, except we fall asleep. These alpha and theta waves are slower and more regular
compared to the waves emitted by the part of our brain thats awake. Individuals who practice meditation
typically hang out in stage 1. In this stage, its very common to experience strange and extremely vivid
sensations. One of the best examples is the feeling of falling or somebody calling your name followed by
sudden muscle contractions. These are known as hypnagogic hallucinations, a collective term for sights,
sounds, and other sensations experienced during the transition between wakefulness and sleep (31). Briefly
following, we enter theta, which is still a relatively light period between being awake and asleep and lasts a
very short period of five to ten minutes.
Stage 2 lasts approximately twenty minutes, as our brain begins to generate very short periods of rapid,
rhythmic brain wave activity known as sleep spindles (3). Sleep spindles are a hallmark of non-rapid eye
movement (NREM). At this point, body temperature and heart rate are reduced.
Stage 3 is where things start to pick up as delta waves start to emerge, which are very slow and have much
larger amplitudes. Stage 3 is often referred to as delta sleep or slow wave sleep. Stage 3 and 4 are typically
combined stages. In stage 3, it is often difficult to awaken a person, and if awakened, the person will feel
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2 of 12 6/7/2014 10:36 PM
disoriented for several minutes (yes, this happens to everyone). Blood flow is directed away from the brain to
other parts of the body for restorative purposes. A person can be woken in stage 1 sleep by a slight noise
(yes, the light sleepers). By stage 3, he/she might sleep through a very loud bang (perhaps somebody
eagerly trying to steal your protein powder). In any case, it isnt good. Considering that sleep is vital to
recovery, it is within this specific sleep stage (slow wave sleep) that growth hormone is released within
humans. This has been well documented (18, 27, 33, 41, 43, 46) and suggests that optimum conditions for
anabolism (swoleness) prevail during sleep and that the duration of slow wave sleep are proportional to
preceding wakefulness (39). In addition, if/when sleep deprivation is apparent, slow wave sleep is decreased,
facilitating an increase in daytime sleepiness and a reduction in performance (14).
Stage 4 delta sleep lasts about 25 to thirty minutes. Sleepwalking and/or bed wetting (hopefully that isnt you)
occur in this stage of sleep.
(http://articles.elitefts.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/dream-jon-mike-sleep-052914.jpg)
Stage 5, the final stage of sleep, is where we dream. It is actual REM sleep, lasting about ninety to 120
minutes of a nights sleep, and is accompanied by increased respiration rate and brain activity. Herein lies a
huge problem for so many individuals. If you repeatedly wake up before you get into REM sleep, youll begin to
suffer detrimental effects to memory, motor skills, and general performance.
Dreaming occurs because of increased brain activity, but voluntary muscles become paralyzed. Although they
can vary substantially, the length of a dream may last for a few seconds or as long as twenty to thirty minutes
(19). Interestingly, the average person has three to five dreams per night, but some may have up to seven
dreams in one night (19). These dreams can be combinations of emotion, visuals, sexual themes, black and
white versus color (38), nightmares, dj vu, or any other phenomenon. The paralyzing effect during dreams is
actually a built-in protective mechanism to keep you from hurting yourself. Have you ever felt like you cant
escape during a dream? Well, it turns out you cant. You can breathe and your basic physiology is functioning,
but you really cant move.

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Sleep, recovery, and training
Most of us hard training athletes need about seven to 8.5 hours of sleep each day (2), of which 8090 percent
should be during the night. Sleep also serves as a restorative process for energy resources, tissue recovery,
thermoregulation, and cognitive function (1), and deep sleep is vital for maximizing physiological growth and
repair (20). Sleep is recognized as an essential component of recovery from performance training and
anecdotally reported to be the single most efficacious recovery strategy. Adequate sleep is also vital for
athletes who are injured or traveling or are in heavy periods of training or competition phases (36, 37). Poor
sleep quality, predominantly during high training loads and competition periods, has been identified as a marker
of underrecovery and a contributing factor of overreaching and overtraining (13).
We all have experienced sleep disturbances the night prior to a competition, which is all too common for hard
training athletes. Recent research investigated the precompetitive sleep behavior of 103 athletes and how it
relates to precompetitive mood and subsequent performance. (25). Results revealed that on the night before
competition, athletes slept well under the recommended target of eight hours of sleep for healthy adults, with
almost 70 percent of athletes experiencing poorer sleep than usual. It was found that anxiety, noise, the need
to use the bathroom, and early event times were among the most commonly reported causes of disrupted
sleep in athletes on the night prior to competition. Of course, disrupted sleep on the night prior to competition
can negatively relate to an athletes precompetitive mood states. Although not conveyed in the literature,
anecdotal evidence also suggests that athletes who compete at night also have complications falling asleep
post-competition.
Its been shown that hard training athletes have sleep disturbances in part related to higher nighttime
epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine concentrations (30). Similarly, a doubling of training load has been
reported to provoke insomnia and depression as part of the overtraining syndrome (45).
Enter the deprivation
Sleep deprivation, sleep lossits all the same. When we dont sleep, the circadian rhythm gets off-track,
hormones get crazy, and we cant recovery as effectively. Loss of sleep certainly impacts a wide variety of
physiological outcomes such as altered glucose control, abnormal cortisol, and of course, overall hormonal
imbalances such as lower testosterone in men (no swoleness), which impedes training recovery due to
decreased protein synthesis. There are a whole host of consequences of sleep deprivation beyond just
reductions in exercise performance, both in the general populations and in athletes.
Lets examine a variety of consequences of sleep deprivation. This, of course, isnt an exhaustive list but
highlights major components involved in sleep loss.
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Strength and power
Blumert and colleagues (4) examined the effects of 24 hours of sleep deprivation in nine US college-level
weightlifters in a randomized counterbalanced design. There werent any differences in any of the performance
tasks (snatch, clean and jerk, front squat, and total volume load and training intensity) following 24 hours of
sleep deprivation when compared with no sleep deprivation (4). However, mood state, as assessed by the
profile of mood states (a questionnaire used for overtraining), was significantly altered with confusion, vigor,
fatigue, and total mood disturbance all negatively impacted by sleep deprivation. There have also been
performance declines in isokinetic knee extension and flexion torque after thirty hours of sleep deprivation in
trained men (9). An early study also found a significant effect of sleep loss on maximal bench press, leg press,
and deadlifts but not maximal bicep curls. Submaximal performance was significantly negatively affected on all
four tasks and to a greater extent compared to the maximal efforts (34).
Bottom line on strength and power: In all likelihood, sleep loss will affect your gains, but individual variability
does exist as well as differences in training responses and programs.
Hormones
Testosterone is also affected by your total amount of sleep. This makes sense, as our bodies make much more
testosterone when were asleep than when were awake. A lack of sleep can most certainly create a decrease
in testosterone. A recent investigation found that men who slept less than five hours a night for one week in a
laboratory had significantly lower levels of testosterone (by over 10 percent) than when they had a full nights
sleep (26) whereas an early report showed a 30.4 percent decrease (12). Interestingly, these reductions all
happened within 24 hours of sleep deprivation (13, 17).
In a study by Leproult and colleagues (26), the participants spent three nights in the laboratory sleeping for up
to ten hours and then eight consecutive nights sleeping less than five hours. Their blood was sampled every 15
to thirty minutes for 24 hours during the last day of the ten-hour sleep phase and the last day of the five-hour
sleep phase. The results showed that sleep loss on testosterone levels were apparent after just one week of
decreased sleep, and five hours of sleep decreased their testosterone levels by ten to fifteen percent. It was
also found the men had the lowest testosterone levels in the afternoons on their sleep restricted days, between
2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., and also self-reported their mood and vigor levels throughout the study. In addition,
the young men reported a decline in their sense of well being as their blood testosterone levels reduced. Their
mood and vigor actually decreased more per day as the sleep restriction part of the study continued.
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Growth hormones are secreted in a pulsatile fashion from the anterior pituitary shortly after sleep. As
previously mentioned, growth hormone is well documented for promoting anabolic effects during sleep.
However, considerable sleep deprivation for multiple nights can undoubtedly crush growth hormone. But some
evidence indicates that neither an irregular sleep cycle [i.e. night shift workers (7)] nor only sleeping for four
hours a night (41) will adversely affect whole-day exposure to growth hormone. Although sleep loss can disturb
changes in the growth hormone cycle, overall exposure is still present, as the body appears to compensate
during normal waking hours.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced in the adrenal cortex located on top of each kidney. Cortisol is
released in a highly irregular manner with peak secretion in the early morning, which then tapers out in the late
afternoon and evening. Fasting, food intake, exercising, awakening, and psychosocial stressors cause the body
to release cortisol, but it has a slightly different response when sleep loss is apparent. The majority of the
recent science on cortisol and sleep deprivation shows either no change or slight increases. Some studies even
normalize this difference and increase overall exposure to cortisol over a full day.
Similar to cortisol, insulin doesnt appear to be highly disastrous to sleep loss (unless you eat a large
meat-lovers pizza with everything drizzled in olive oil right before your four hours of sleepthen it might be an
issue). However, some evidence does show a decrease in insulin sensitivity in the fat cells and liver (8, 15).
Some evidence reports that this decrease in insulin sensitivity can be attributed to getting half your normal
amount of sleep for less than a week (10, 35).
Bottom line with sleep and hormones: Try not to screw them up! For those of you who are ramping up
training efforts for competition, you may want to get more total hours on the pillow.
Metabolism
Studies support the notion that chronic partial sleep loss can increase the risk of obesity and diabetes (24).
This includes changes in glucose regulation via insulin resistance, deregulation of neuroendocrine control of
appetite, and/or increased energy intake (1, 40). Sleep deprivation has also been shown to have decreases in
leptin and increases in ghrelin [appetite regulating hormones (47)]. Sleep loss has also been shown to increase
hunger and appetite, particularly in relation to carbohydrate-rich foods (42). Metabolic rate itself is a bit mixed.
One study found that getting three fewer hours of sleep per day for two weeks resulted in a 7.6 percent
reduction in metabolic rate (29) whereas other reports showed no decrease (6, 32). To add to the mix, a recent
study in adolescent boys reported that less sleep actually resulted in additional calories expended (23),
meaning the subjects expended more (being awake longer) and consumed less (decreased appetite).
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Bottom line with metabolism: Altered glucose metabolism and neuroendocrine function can create concern
regarding carbohydrate metabolism, appetite, food intake, and protein synthesis.
Cognition
There isnt any doubt that one of the most studied areas of the science of sleep deprivation is the effects on
alertness and performance (44). It is estimated that the consequences cost billions of dollars worldwide per
year due to accidents, direct healthcare costs, and reduced efficiency and productivity (44). Sleep loss surely
decreases the effects of learning and memory and is critical for learning and preparing the brain for next-day
memory development (48). Interestingly, a recent study found that 24 hours of sleep deprivation significantly
heightened the levels of stress hormones and lowered attention and working memory, meaning that the acute
loss in sleep rendered the subjects more susceptible to making errors despite the fact that they were all good
sleepers, had no history of medical or neuropsychiatric diseases, werent taking any kind of medication, and
were in their early to mid 20s (22). Although a lack of overall evidence exists on the effects of sleep deprivation
risk of acute injury (i.e. decreased focus, poor execution, or lowered reaction times), its likely that sleep
deprivation may increase susceptibility to injury.
Bottom line on cognition: Sleep loss can negatively impact learning and memory and likely increase the risk
of injury and work related errors.
Immune response and inflammation
Ever have the feeling of sickness and headaches due to loss of sleep? Say I! Well, a recent review examined
the link between sleep and immune response and concluded that sleep improves immune responses and that
most immune cells have their peak pro-inflammatory activity at night (5). This means that sleep loss will
certainly impair immune responses, increasing risk of illness. A recent study examined immune function
response in subjects who naturally slept for less than seven hours, seven to nine hours, or longer than nine
hours (16). Short sleep duration was associated with 49 percent higher T-cell function in response to an antigen
and 30 percent lower natural killer cell activity when compared with normal sleep. Simply, sleep loss lowers
immune function.
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Inflammatory markers are also present with sleep deprivation. Interleukins (naturally occurring proteins
produced by the body that have infection-fighting immune responses), tumor necrosis factor- (important
mediator of the bodys response to infection), and C-reactive protein (a substance produced by the liver that
increases in the presence of inflammation in the body) are all influenced by a lack of sleep (28) as well as
gender differences (21). Those people with insomnia and sleep apnea have elevated inflammatory markers
(28), which absolutely affects insulin sensitivity, metabolism, blood pressure, and sleep.
Bottom line on immune response and inflammation: Loss of sleep does decrease immune function and can
adversely affect performance while additional and consistent sleep surely helps reverse the process.
Stay tuned for part two of Sleep, Science, and Swoleness!
References
Aldabal L, Bahammam AS (2011) Metabolic, endocrine, and immune consequences of sleep deprivation.
The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal 5:3143.
1.
Alhola P, Polo-Kantola P (2007) Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatric
Disease and Treatment 3:55367.
2.
Andrillon T, Nir Y, Staba RJ, Ferrarelli F, Cirelli C, Tononi G, Fried I (2011) Sleep spindles in humans:
insights from intracranial EEG and unit recordings. J Neurosci 31:17821834.
3.
Blumert PA, Crum AJ, Ernsting M, Volek JS, Hollander DB, Haff EE, Haff GG (2007) The acute effects
of twenty-four hours of sleep loss on the performance of national-caliber male collegiate weightlifters. J
Strength Cond Res 21:114654.
4.
Bollinger T, Bollinger A, Oster H, Solbach W (2010) Sleep, immunity, and circadian clocks: a mechanistic
model. Gerontology 56:57480.
5.
Bosy-Westphal A, Hinrichs S, Jauch-Chara K, Hitze B, Later W, Wilms B, Settler U, Peters A, Kiosz D,
Muller MJ (2008). Influence of partial sleep deprivation on energy balance and insulin sensitivity in
healthy women. Obesity Facts 1:26673.
6.
Brandenberger G, Weibel L (2004) The 24-h growth hormone rhythm in men: sleep and circadian
influences questioned. Journal of Sleep Research 13:25155.
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About the Author
Jonathan Mike, PhD(c), CSCS, USAW, NSCA-CPT,
is a doctorate candidate. He studied exercise physiology at the University of New Mexico and received his
bachelors and masters degrees in exercise science from Western Kentucky University. Jonathan has been
lifting and training heavy for 14 years and has been competing in the sport of Strongman since 2007. To learn
more about Jonathan or contact him, visit The Strength Exchange (http://www.thestrengthexchange.com).
6 Comments
Reply (/training-articles/sleep-science-and-swoleness/?replytocom=4056969#respond)
Col (http://www.effectiveeating.net)
Posted June 1, 2014 at 5:48 AM
Exceptional; one of the best articles Ive read in a long, long time.
1.
Reply (/training-articles/sleep-science-and-swoleness/?replytocom=4066554#respond)
Jon Mike
Posted June 2, 2014 at 11:26 AM
Thanks Col! Appreciate it! Part 2 will be out soon. Thanks for your support and support of Elitefts
2.
Reply (/training-articles/sleep-science-and-swoleness/?replytocom=4068013#respond)
Adam
Posted June 2, 2014 at 4:12 PM
Really enjoyed this article. Id like to hear more about the effects of getting enough sleep, but entirely
during the day. All my sleep comes during the daylight because of my job, and I can tell it has had a
negative impact.
Reply (/training-articles/sleep-science-and-swoleness/?replytocom=4068243#respond)
Jon Mike
Posted June 2, 2014 at 4:44 PM
Thanks Adam! Part 2 will cover effects of Naps, and supplementation and various tips to use to get
better sleep. Part 2 will be out in a few weeks or so.
3.
Reply (/training-articles/sleep-science-and-swoleness/?replytocom=4076905#respond)
-D-
Posted June 3, 2014 at 1:55 PM
Sleep apnea sucksusing a cpap helps but still isnt optimal. When I have a cold or sinus infection,
sometimes I wish I had a tracheostomy just to be able to breathe.
4.
Reply (/training-articles/sleep-science-and-swoleness/?replytocom=4094077#respond)
Jacky
Posted June 5, 2014 at 9:38 AM
Great article, I hope part 2 has tips on how to sleep more/longer
5.
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