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The Importance of Sleep for Health and Fitness

Did you know: according to the US Department of Health, a third of adults don’t get the seven-plus hours sleep they need? You’re probably thinking it’s understandable; after all, we live busy lives. But… sleep, exercise and nutrition are like three corners of a pyramid that supports your health and gains. So, let’s take a look at just why it’s so important. Man sleeps in bed

Benefits of Sleep for Fitness

When you get enough sleep, your body has an opportunity to produce growth hormones, recover from a workout and replace depleted energy. Sleep goes through stages: non-REM stage 1 which is similar to dozing, non-REM stage 2 where your brain relaxes, non-REM stage 3 where your body relaxes and REM sleep which is deep sleep, where we experience Rapid Eye Movement. When we reach non-REM stage 3, your body relaxes and starts to repair muscle tissues; as a study from the University of Utah found, it also releases anabolic hormones that build muscle. When your body progresses through the stages, your heart gets a chance to relax and your metabolism begins a restorative cycle. Sleep also has a direct relationship with weight loss, with a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine finding that dieters who get adequate sleep burn more fat than those who don’t, and those who don’t get enough sleep may even be losing muscle.

Sleep Quality for Fitness

Hopefully, we’ve sold you on the importance of sleep. We all probably know what it feels like after a good sleep, but what exactly is quality sleep and how do we get it? Good sleep is not just about hours; you do need seven to nine hours sleep, but there are a few more things to consider. According to the American National Sleep Foundation, some indicators of good sleep quality include falling asleep quickly, how many times you wake during the night and how much time you’re awake during the night. These factors make for good sleep quality because they help you progress steadily through the sleep stages. Photo of Person Holding Alarm Clock With Bedsheets

Sleep Deprivation and Fitness

If you think you suffer from sleep deprivation, you’re not alone. According to sleep expert, Dr Malcolm von Schantz, we all tend to get less sleep than we did 50 years ago. This can affect athletic performance, slow your workout recovery and increase the risk of injury. For example, a Stanford University study found their basketball team improved their sprinting, accuracy and overall performance over a season when increasing their sleep times from 6-9 hours to 10 hours – suggesting a lack of sleep had been holding them back.

Sleep and Muscle Recovery

Sleep is vital for muscle recovery, and recovery time is vital for a good workout plan. According to a research team from the Centre for Studies in Psychobiology and Exercise in Brazil, sleep debt decreases protein synthesis and increases muscle loss. That makes sleep vital for your muscle recovery.

Sleep and Athletic Performance

Similarly, researchers from the University of Wisconsin found that sleep is vital for athletic performance. Not only that, but also for emotional resilience and cognitive performance, as well as reported quality of life. They found it was an important part of recovery and adaptation, reducing the risk of injury and increasing performance but, at the same time, many athletes were not getting enough sleep due to tough schedules, overtraining and life demands.

Sleep and Weight Loss

Think about it… we mentioned that people are getting measurably less sleep than 50 years ago, and what has happened to the average waistline in that same period? It’s not hard to notice, and science backs it up. There have been many studies that found a correlation between poor sleep and metabolic disorders, obesity, weight gain and long-term health problems. The exact nature of the problem isn’t understood but we’ve already seen that the body uses sleep to regulate and repair, which is something we all need.

Sleep and Energy

A good night’s sleep will make us ready to face the day in a way that caffeine and energy drinks never can. Researchers believe this is due to adenosine and glycogen, both of which are an important part of the sequence of events that feed energy to your muscles. Adenosine builds up during our waking day, making us feel sleepy, and our glycogen stores deplete during our waking day, and is linked to sleep deprivation. Black woman with dreads sleeping in bed

Tips for Better Sleep and Fitness

How do we help ensure we get good sleep? The good news is that exercise can actually help you sleep. Another good idea is to make a sleep schedule and ensure you go to bed and wake up at the same time, because our bodies love consistency. Don’t overeat, or overdo the caffeine or alcohol before bedtime. Another good tip is to keep your bedroom dark and quiet, leaving your phone in another room. Long-term things we can do to improve our sleep include finding ways to reduce the stress in our lives and even keep a sleep diary, trying to pinpoint the events in your life that lead to periods of good or bad sleep. We hope we’ve proven our case about how a good night’s sleep is vital for a good day and a good workout. We’ve looked at the benefits of sleep for fitness, recovery and weight loss, and how athletes should definitely be paying attention to their sleep quality. The bottom line is that sleep is important and we hope the tips we’ve presented here can help you improve your rest, getting you ready for a good workout.

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