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