The Connection Between Sleep and Fitness

Are you hitting the gym daily but not seeing the gains you hoped for? While diet plays an important role in gaining muscle and changing your body composition, so does quality sleep. If you’re setting your alarm early in the morning and not getting sufficient sleep at night, you could be sabotaging your progress.

Did you know that sleep is one of the leading causes of weight gain? And that lack of sleep can trigger muscle mass reduction? If you’re still not convinced, keep reading. In this article, we’ll share more information about the connection between your sleep habits and achieving your fitness goals.

Why Sleep is Important for Daily Functioning

Sleep is essential for just about every bodily function from digestion and cognitive ability to immune health and, you guessed it, muscle growth and repair. Without sleep, your body can’t perform all the tasks it’s naturally designed to do – including exercise. When it comes to fitness, what you do outside the gym is just as important (if not more important), than what you do inside the gym. This includes what you drink, eat, and how much sleep you get. And it’s not just the quantity of sleep in terms of hours but also the quality of the sleep you’re getting. Without adequate sleep, you can’t sustain physical activity and won’t have the energy to fuel your workouts. 

Sleep is essential for creating lean muscle and for muscle repair. It also supports a healthy heart, which is a must when performing high-intensity cardiovascular activities. Even if you give it 100% in the gym and eat a well-balanced diet, without sufficient rest, you won’t see the results you’re after. Your body can’t physically deliver these benefits without sleep. 

Recovery Time

This is one of the biggest ways that sleep impacts your fitness goals. For those individuals who find it difficult to even take a rest day from exercise, it’s important for you to understand how the body recovers and repairs itself during times of rest and sleep. 

When you sleep, your body relaxes and finally has time to recover and rejuvenate from the day’s activities. This includes repairing itself both physically and mentally. As you sleep, your body works to not only repair your muscles but also grow the ones you’ve been working so hard to build. When you get sufficient sleep, your body produces more of the growth hormone, HGH. As a child, this hormone is responsible for growth spurts, height increases, and bodily changes during puberty. As an adult, HGH helps build lean muscle and repair the muscles that you’ve torn during an intense sweat sesh at the gym. Without adequate sleep, your body can’t produce the HGH needed for athletic recovery.

Unfortunately, millions of adults don’t consider sleep a top priority. In fact, 30% of the adult population is chronically sleep-deprived. Whether it’s work obligations, increased stress, or simply thinking that sleep isn’t important, millions of people aren’t getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep needed for overall good health and well-being. Add intense exercise into the mix and the goal of achieving the ideal body, and sleep has never been more important. 

Energy Levels and Mood

Poor sleep quality can impact more than just the size of your muscles or waist. It also plays an important role in regulating your emotions, mood, and energy levels. If you’ve ever hit the snooze button on your alarm and lacked the energy to get through your workout, you know all too well how much sleep can negatively affect your physical performance. Daytime drowsiness can leave you reaching for caffeinated beverages or catching a quick cat nap in the afternoon. While these are “quick fixes”, they can further interrupt your sleep at night, creating a vicious, unhealthy cycle of poor sleep.

It’s during sleep that your brain sorts through all the day’s information, storing memories, improving cognitive function, and regulating your emotions. When you skimp on sleep, you may find yourself increasingly irritable, anxious, or even depressed. Random mood swings or feelings of depression can impact your motivation to hit the gym and chase your fitness goals. It may also result in the need for anti-anxiety medications like Lorazepam, which is also said to act as a sleep aid. While this may help improve your condition, many anti-anxiety medications also have unpleasant side effects that could ultimately impede your progress.

Exercise Can Improve Sleep Quality

The relationship between sleep and fitness is a two-way street. Just as much as your sleep habits can impact your fitness goals, your activity level can directly impact your sleep quality. The good news is that in most instances, exercise has a positive effect on sleep. If you’ve ever spent the day performing intense exercise or manual labor only to find yourself completely exhausted that night or the following day, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Not only do you feel tired enough to fall asleep almost instantly, but your muscles feel heavy and fatigued as well.

And here’s why. When you exercise, your brain releases a variety of chemicals including serotonin, which helps improve your mood and triggers feelings of happiness. Another chemical produced by physical activity is adenosine, which triggers sleepiness. Adenosine is the same chemical that caffeinated beverages work to block, therefore decreasing tiredness and increasing alertness. The harder, longer, and more intense your workouts are, the more compelled you feel to sleep. 

It’s important to note, though, that this dip in energy levels and increased fatigue happens over time. Directly following a workout, you may find yourself feeling energized, aroused, or “hyped up”. That’s because your body is producing the adrenaline needed to fuel your workouts. This is also why it’s recommended you work out first thing in the morning and not too close to bedtime. By the time you come down from your energy high, you’ll be preparing for sleep and your body will be ready to give into those high levels of adenosine. You can also promote sleep by adopting a relaxing bedtime routine that includes things like reading from a book, listening to music, or meditating. CBTi offers a variety of other helpful suggestions and activities for preparing the body and mind for sleep.

Make Sleep a Priority

If you’re a self-proclaimed gym rat or simply love exercise, you’ve probably set some pretty specific fitness goals for yourself. Eating a healthy diet, hitting the gym every day, and making time for rest days are probably all part of your daily routine. But there may be one thing you’re overlooking and that’s the importance of sleep in achieving your fitness goals. Now that you know how important sleep is for muscle gain, energy levels, mood, and maintaining a healthy weight, you can (and should) start making it a top priority.



Health & Fitness

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I work as a full time hair stylist but love writing about life. I hope to become a full time writer one day and spend all my time sharing my experience with you!

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