|(photo courtesy of ShokoPhoto)|
I'm halfway through my half-marathon running schedule (so is that a quarter way through?), and it's getting to that time of year when it's cold outside (at least cold for Southern California). I like to do dawn runs to start my weekends, but this morning was particularly painful starting a run in 50 degree weather. Not to mention, doing it in shorts and a t-shirt.
I also have to play this compromise between getting enough sleep and getting in enough time to do a run before it gets too bright. And then there's the pre-run snack that helps provide fuel for a long run. People suggest eating a snack before running at least 30 minutes in advance, but if you're already waking up at 6 to do a run, you're looking at waking up at 5 in order to get something in the belly without running with the feeling of a brick in your stomach. I've found that a good snack for me is cold oatmeal. Simply mix equal amount of oatmeal, yogurt, and almond milk, and let sit in fridge overnight. Quick, easy, and good amount of protein and carbs to get you through the morning!
What if you have to make the choice between getting in a good run or getting in the full sleep? I was curious if there have been any research articles looking into this and there's quite a body of research known about this area.
|Sleep is a necessity for everyone, even cute koalas (photo courtesy of Alex P.)|
It's well known that sleep deprivation isn't great. Your body needs a good amount of sleep to basically reset itself. Having a good night's sleep is especially important for maintaining good communication throughout your different brain regions. In both animals and humans, sleep deprivation often leads to memory impairments in working memory and the consolidation or strengthening of new information. But can exercise reverse these negative consequences?
Exercise has been shown to be important for improving cognitive function and protecting new memory formation, but how effective would squeezing in some sweat do in a compromised situation like what happens during sleep deprivation?
Turns out, providing consistent exercise to animals before sleep deprivation completely protects the animals from sleep deprivation-induced damage to the brain. In this study, rats were allowed a month of regular exercise on a treadmill before being sleep deprived for 24 hours. Sleep deprivation causes many detrimental consequences on the brain such as decrease in electrical activation of the brain and decreases in key proteins essential for memory formation*. Groups that had exercised before sleep deprivation overall had higher levels of electrical activity in the memory area of the brain and pro-memory proteins compared to the control groups.
These findings point to how much exercise can benefit and even protect the body from injury. It also points to how sensitive our brains are. If we're super sleep deprived, several molecular changes are drastically being changed, having a detrimental impact on our cognitive function. However, fitting in some exercise (in this case leisure running or walking) can ameliorate the damage done to the body from continual stress. In a way, I think that's why so many of my mentors have stressed the importance of fitting in some time getting in physical activity. My undergraduate mentor's joke of what a Ph.D. stood for?
Permanent Health Disorder.
Maybe that's why she ran and hiked so much...
Happy November everyone! November is a great month for me. MOH's birthday just passed, and I'm getting one step closer to my dream job. More news to come at a later time.
*Sleep deprivation has shown to cause a decrease in early long term potentiation and lead to decreases in CaMKII and BDNF protein levels within the dentate gyrus.
Zagaar, M, Dao, A, Alhaider, I, and Alkadhi, K. Regular treadmill exercise prevents sleep deprivation-induced disruption of synaptic plasticity and associated signaling cascade in the dentate gyrus. 2013. Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience.