When you’re plotting out your personal fitness goals and putting a plan in place to achieve them, you’ll likely concentrate most on the more obvious aspects. The type of exercises for your target areas, amendments to your diet, and the frequency of your workouts are all important to figure out, and crucial to your overall success. However, there’s one ingredient of an idealized fitness routine which is often overlooked; sleep. Sleep plays a vital role in your overall health, but also can have an enormous impact on the effectiveness of your fitness routine.
Everyone Needs Sleep, but Athletes Need it More
The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night in order for their body to function properly. Unfortunately, most adults only get between 5 and 7 hours. Athletes however, routinely get between 10 and 12 hours.
The more sleep you get, the more prepared you are for physical activity. Increasing the time you sleep will actually lead to faster reaction times and improved reflexes. One study found that specifically basketball players experienced faster sprint times, and increased shooting accuracy when they routinely spent up to 10 hours in bed as opposed to their usual amount of sleep.
Getting less than the recommended amount of sleep, can slow your body’s production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are used to give you energy when exercising. This can also cause a lack of focus, and slow your overall recovery time. Needless to say, none of these are issues you’ll want to be dealing with when it’s time to work out.
Sleep is Restorative
If you think that sleep’s only purpose is to restore your body’s energy when it’s tired, you are sorely mistaken. When we’re in the stages of deep sleep and REM sleep, our bodies begin to heal themselves in a number of different ways. This has lead sleep scientists to collectively refer to the deep and REM stages of sleep as “restorative sleep.”
During restorative sleep everything slows down; from our heart rate, to our brain waves, to our breathing. This dormant state allows our bodies to repair damaged cells, synthesize proteins, and build new muscle tissue.
There is also a large amount of emotional restoration that happens during deep sleep. Your brain uses this time to form and store new memories, learn new concepts, as well as process and deal with new stresses and anxieties. So when you wake up in the morning feeling refreshed, it’s not just because you’re no longer tired. It’s because all of your physical and mental abilities have been rejuvenated; preparing you to face another day, and another workout.
How to Get Better Sleep
So now that we know just how important sleep can be to your fitness routine, let’s look at some ways for you to ensure you’re getting quality sleep.
- Keep Yourself Hydrated
You may believe that drinking water before bed will inevitably cause you to wake up in the middle of the night having to use the bathroom. Thus reducing the amount of continuous sleep you’re getting. However, drinking one small glass of water before bed can actually help you avoid leg cramps and dry mouth during the night.
Keep in mind that sleep and hydration have a cyclical effect on each other. While staying hydrated can help you improve the quality of your sleep, it has been found that a lack of sleep can cause you to become increasingly dehydrated. Your body’s water balance is controlled by a hormone called vasopressin. This hormone is released rather late in your sleep cycle, so limiting the time you spend asleep may cause you to wake before vasopressin has had a chance to be released.
- Use a Quality Mattress
An uncomfortable mattress can cause a variety of problems sleeping, not to mention further strain and even injury to your neck and back if you’re unable to lay down properly.
Using a memory foam mattress is the best way to go, since they will conform to the shape of your body and distribute your weight evenly. This takes some pressure off your shoulders, neck, and back, and provides additional support to your hips and legs. To get the most out of your memory foam, make sure you’re sleeping on a queen sized bed at the very least. With a bigger bed you can stretch out your sore muscles appropriately; without feeling like you’re confined to a smaller area.
Could this be more perfect? Not only does sleep help your mind and body recover from an intense workout, but an intense workout actually increases the length and quality of your sleep. The more exercise you get during the day, the more time you will spend in the aforementioned restorative sleep phase, which in turn will allow you a fuller recovery.
Exercise is also a classic and confirmed reliever of stress, which we all know can be something that prevents you from falling asleep.
Do you incorporate sleep into your fitness routine? If so, tell us how!