By Tim Dain, Physiotherapist.
How many hours of sleep did you manage last night? During sleep, our breathing slows and deepens, to deliver more oxygen to our bloodstream whilst our brains recognise, restore and refine the motor skills we have learnt whilst awake. Simultaneously, physical and mental repair occurs as levels of adrenaline and testosterone subside and cortisol levels re-balance to regulate stress.
Also during sleep, there is a spike in levels of Somatotropin (Human Growth Hormone) which as well as being responsible for our children getting taller, in adulthood promotes cell reproduction and regeneration by acting as an Anabolic agent.
Somatotropin has many known effects and some which remain unclear, it is associated with:
• Promoting the uptake of calcium and mineralisation of bone
• Increasing muscle mass
• Promoting the breakdown of fats
• Increasing protein synthesis, the process whereby biological cells renew
• Maintaining the natural equilibrium (Homeostasis) which provides optimal conditions for our bodies to function
• Reducing the uptake of glucose by the liver whilst also promoting gluconeogenesis, the metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrates
• Maintaining the function of the pancreatic islets, which are responsible for the production of several hormones including Insulin
• Stimulating the immune system
• Increases the metabolism of Thyroid hormones, which control breathing, heart rate, our central and peripheral nervous systems, body weight, menstrual cycles, temperature and Cholesterol levels
Studies involving patients with a Somatotropin deficiency have also suggested it has a crucial role in mental and emotional well-being and in maintaining energy levels. Adults with Somatotropin deficiency often have higher rates of depression, whilst replacement therapy has been proposed as a treatment for depression. Similarly, when studied in the context of brain function, for example learning and memory, Somatotropin appears to improve our cognitive functioning.
So, if you’ve been ‘burning the candle at both ends’ lately, maybe it’s time for an early night?
See this feature on foods that disrupt sleep – runners world.