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Sleep Deprivation Fosters Inactivity

American College of Sports Medicine -- Although much is still unknown about exactly how sleep and its restorative processes work, researchers have begun to uncover many of the ways in which missed sleep is detrimental, especially as it relates to exercise and health.

As many as one in four people have some type of sleeping disorder, but only half are diagnosed, said researcher William G. Herbert, Ph.D., FACSM in a presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine's 12th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition.

Although much is still unknown about exactly how sleep and its restorative processes work, researchers have begun to uncover many of the ways in which missed sleep is detrimental, especially as it relates to exercise and health.

"It's remarkable how little we actually know about sleep and its relation to the body, but we're learning," Herbert said. "It's a complex area to investigate, but the opportunities to dig deeper into how sleep relates to health and physical activity are excellent."

According to Herbert, sleep is key in regulating the body's processes, including appetite and metabolism. Lack of sleep can throw these processes off balance, and may lead to overeating, and in turn, gradual weight gain over time.

Getting enough sleep -- seven to eight hours per night for adults -- is also important for replenishing the body's psychic energy stores. Feeling sluggish or lacking energy during waking hours isn't very conducive to exercise motivation and can cause excessive inactivity, another contributing factor to obesity.

Being overweight can then create a vicious cycle between lack of sleep and lack of exercise. Too, obesity can cause sleep apnea, leading to disrupted sleep patterns, sluggishness, inactivity, and even high blood pressure.

"In the most severe cases of sleep apnea, a person can wake more than 100 times during a night of sleep, gasping for air," Herbert said. "Sleep apnea sufferers typically have a chronic lack of energy and motivation to exercise."

Researchers have found that those with high blood pressure may want to avoid early morning workouts, as blood pressure tends to rise slightly for all of us after waking. For those with high blood pressure, this elevation may persist longer with early morning exercise.

Herbert also discussed the comparable physiological processes behind exercise and sleep. Both are remarkably connected to the body's temperature control system, but in opposite ways. In exercise, blood flow in active muscles carries heat away, but without allowing the brain temperature to rise but a few degrees. In triggering the transitioning to sleep, however, these same temperature controls cool the brain slightly by diverting its warmer blood to the legs and arms. Researchers plan to use this mirroring effect to delve further into the connections and similarities between sleep and physical activity.

Source: Medical News Today

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 International, National and Regional members are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research, education and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health and quality of life. For more information, visit the American College of Sports Medicine.

© 2008 American College of Sports Medicine

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