Positive Health and Well-Being: Sleep and Fitness
If you want to get in better shape, you should start by going to sleep.
Sounds a little counter-intuitive, right? Because what does dozing and snoozing have to do with getting fit?
Actually, quite a lot. Sleep affects us a lot more than we might think. It impacts our relationships, our work life, our appearance and both our mental and physical health. With enough, good-quality sleep on a regular basis, we’re happier and healthier people. Whereas, if we’re sleep-deprived, we’re more prone to sickness, to turn to unhealthy habits and to be lethargic, unmotivated and irritable in our daily lives.
Not exactly the recipe for a fitness machine!
It’s true – sleep has a big impact on both our fitness and our health. Here’s why:
1. Sleep aids performance
When you don’t sleep properly, you’re reducing your body’s ability to perform. Your reaction times are less, your motivation and energy levels are low and your frustration is high. Even though you do the same sequence as two days’ previous, you find yourself much more exerted, and a lot less fit.
So if you try and stick to that training schedule when you’re sleep-deprived, it’s likely to end in disappointment. And you’ll be more likely to give up.
2. Sleep reduces the risk of injury
A sleep-deprived body could be more prone to injury. In fact, researchers looking at performance amongst athletes discovered that one of the biggest causes of injury was a lack of the snoozy stuff. One study in particular showed that athletes who slept for less than 8 hours a night were considerably more likely to get injured than athletes who did. This was probably because they didn’t have sufficient time to “repair” the body… but more on that in a sec.
The thing is, even if you do a warm-up beforehand, you may end up pushing yourself too hard during the workout itself. Something which your well-rested brain would never allow! An impaired judgement means you don’t respect your boundaries, or accept the fact that maybe you should be gentle on your stiff, tired body. Instead, frustration and impatience drive you to injury… which is bad news for keeping fit afterwards, or for a calm state of mind.
3. Sleep affects recovery time
As you’re probably aware – or at least, you should be – the “recovery time” between workouts is pretty important. This time to rest is essential to help you build strength, allowing body tissue to repair and grow. And recovery period can only occur if we’re well-rested; hence the athletes who got more than 8 hours’ sleep being at less of a risk of injury.
But if you’re sleep-deprived, high cortisol levels, combined with the disruption of the anabolic growth hormone, creates an unfavourable metabolic environment for growth and repair. Your body can’t recover as it should, and your ability to stay in better shape is reduced as a result.
4. Sleep boosts the immune system
Chronic poor sleepers are at greater risk of catching viruses and infections. Furthermore, they’re more likely to become obese, to develop diabetes and to suffer from high blood pressure. They’re even more prone to strokes, heart disease and heart attacks. Yikes!
Staying well-rested, however, means your immune system can do its job. It keeps you stronger and healthier for longer, meaning you can fight of illness and stay in better physical health.
4. Sleep nurtures good mental health
Sleep doesn’t just affect our bodies; it has a big influence on our minds, too. Think of the last time you slept badly. How irritable and lethargic were you the next day? Now imagine that feeling lasting weeks, months or even longer. It ain’t a pretty picture.
The sad thing is, those who toss and turn every night are five times more likely to be depressed than those for whom sleep isn’t a problem. Sleep-deprived people are also 20 times more likely to have a stress-related condition. So clearly, it pays to sleep better… your very happiness depends on it.
5. Sleep leads to fitness, and vice versa
When you get enough sleep, you have the motivation, energy and physical ability to exercise. Similarly, when you make sure to exercise, you’ll be able to sleep better at night. Your body will be stretched, your mind will be calmer and you’ll be able to enjoy a sounder sleep as a result; no matter who you’re sleeping with (!!), or what you’re sleeping on.
And once you start sleeping better on a consistent basis, you’ll notice the benefits to your health, your happiness, and your general well-being, too.
P.S. If you are thinking of purchasing a new bed check out the Dream Cloud Mattress review I recently wrote on the Sleep Advisor. You’ll love it!
So what’re you waiting for? Get thee to bed, now!