Fitness and Sleep: A Powerful Combination

Fitness and Sleep

How Fitness and Sleep Create a Virtuous Circle of Benefits

Getting by on only a little sleep is frequently worn as a badge of honour. Yet the science is overwhelming – sleep deprivation is nothing to be proud of. It comes with a long list of negatives for both your physical and mental health. Add important knock-on factors including lower motivation, and you will see how important a good night of sleep is.

Prioritising rest will boost your fitness in direct and indirect ways. At the same time, working out regularly and healthy eating will give you better quality sleep. This creates a ‘virtuous circle’ which will make you healthier, happier, and closer to your fitness goals.

How Much Sleep is Needed?

The sweet spot for most people is between 7 and 8 hours a night of restful, quality sleep. Any less than this over extended periods will create a deficit which has effects across your entire body. Conversely, too much sleep has negative effects too.

During sleep you go through cycles. Slow wave sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep alternate. When you wake up groggy, it is usually because you woke up in the deeper ‘slow wave’ part of sleeping. Alarm clocks which track your cycles can wake you at the perfect time. I have been using one for years, and that Erik Sate piano track kicks off at just the right time.

Sleep Quality

Sleep quality is affected by your surroundings and routine. For optimal rest, fall asleep and wake at the same time each night. A dark and quiet environment is ideal, with no major temperature swings. If the light floods through your curtains on early summer mornings, then an eye mask or blackout curtain are a must.

Screen time makes a big difference to your sleeping routine. Ideally, end screen time an hour before bed. If you can’t (or won’t!), then yellow lenses to block out the blue light will help.

If you have trouble falling asleep. Reading or a white noise machine (or soothing music if you prefer) are popular options.

Benefits of Fitness from Sleep

Food and Drink

Food and drink make a huge difference too. Caffeine stays in your blood a lot longer than you might imagine. Tea, coffee, or coke late in the day will affect the quality of your sleep – even when you feel like you fell asleep on time. Eating too close to bed-time will also disrupt your body. Avoiding those late-night snacks has multiple benefits – especially when combined with intermittent fasting.

Alcohol is the enemy of sound sleep. Never mind being hung over. Even small amounts will make your night less restful, shallower, and lower quality. If you are otherwise healthy, you can bounce back quickly enough. Repeat this too often, and you’ll do major damage to your health and fitness goals.

How Sleep Boosts Health and Fitness?

Here are the key benefits to your health and fitness of a great night’s kip:

  • Rest Promotes Muscle Growth: Whether you are going for bulk or tone, muscles are not created when you are working out. Muscle building relies on a ‘tear and repair’ process. Great rest gives your muscles the perfect setup for repair, it is just as important as the exercise routine that caused the tears.
  • Insulin / Fat Cell Metabolism: Studies have shown that sleep deprivation boosts insulin resistance. In turn this increases the storage of fat in all the places you don’t want it. You might be burning that fat, only to add it straight back due to lack of restful sleep. Many factors affect insulin resistance, though rest and stress are key components.
  • HGH (Human Growth Hormone): This is a super-important hormone which works at a cellular level. It repairs cells, flushes out old and damaged ones and boosts your immune system. Lack of rest and low HGH means you’ll feel run down, energy less and might even age faster.
  • Appetite: Losing out on restful nights can affect your health and fitness by making you more likely to snack. You’ll be hungrier just at the time your willpower is lowered by fatigue. If that was not bad enough, sleep-deprived people opt for sugars, carbs, and other sub-optimal food groups more often.
  • Lower Motivation: When you have a sound night of sleep, you feel energized and ready to fight for your goals. The reverse is also true. Skipped workouts are one key factor. Another is more subtle. You might do that extra set of exercises, train that little bit harder and work fiercely towards your goals when rested. When tired, well, a short session is good enough, right?

Health and Fitness Boost Restful Sleep

The kicker to better rest helping with fitness is that it also works the other way around. The harder you work out, the better your sleep. It is hard not to notice how good your night of kip can be after a decent workout. Add in the boost you get from healthy eating (again, not too late) and you can start to create the ‘virtuous circle’ I mentioned in the introduction.

Getting fit helps you to sleep

Wrapping Up: Sleep and Fitness Work Wonderfully Together

I discovered the importance of sleeping around five years ago – and will never go back to putting this in second place. If I wake in the night, then I make up for it with an extra hour in the morning whenever possible.

When you prioritise sleeping – you will be amazed how much fitter and healthier you feel. You will also be amazed how much more energy you have available to move you towards your fitness goals.

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