If you want to start a fitness routine to lose weight, gain muscle, tone your body, or simply for your own health and wellbeing, what’s the most important thing to do? Is it regular exercise? Is it a healthy lifestyle? Is it a good diet program?
Although physical activity, a nutritious diet, and healthful habits are crucial to fitness, you might be surprised to learn that one of the most important things to do to achieve your goals is getting enough sleep and having quality sleep.
What does better sleep do to the body?
A good night’s sleep helps the body recover from strenuous activity. Hand in hand with recovery, your body conserves and replenishes energy when you sleep. Your muscles even grow stronger as the growth hormone repairs and builds muscle.
Sadly, most Australians either have poor sleep or lack enough sleep. You may be suffering too, and your sleep problems could be holding you back from achieving your fitness goals. These can only be achieved with excellent and adequate slumber. For more concrete reasons to hit the sack for 7 to 9 hours, we’ve listed 3 reasons down below.
1. The importance of sleep for mental health
Any fitness journey is as challenging on the mind as it is on the body. The determination and motivation to make changes can be difficult. Win the battle in your mind, and you will see the changes throughout your day. The principle applies in fitness too, as your mind will make all kinds of excuses to stop you from eating right and exercising well. To get through the mental battle, you will need enough rest.
Sleep encourages your mind to relax, unwind, and de-stress. Once the mind is relaxed, your goals and priorities can become clearer, which may give more motivation to exercise. In fact, you will be able to face any activity thrown at you, such as aerobic exercise or athletic performance. A study in the Sports Medicine journal proved that lack of sleep could make exercise feel more challenging than it actually is.
Exercise is also incredibly beneficial for mental health and wellness. After performing well at the gym or in a program, you put yourself in a position to completely enjoy the cardiovascular perks and other benefits to wellbeing that exercise brings. Going full circle, exercise can bring these benefits only when you have had enough high-quality sleep.
2. The impact of sleep on hunger and diet
Exercise is only one part of the fitness journey. What you eat is equally, if not more important for your fitness goals. A nutritious and filling diet will help lead to weight loss, gaining muscle mass, and overall wellness improvement, depending on your goals. In fact, a study shows that sleep patterns have an impact on appetite regulation.
The experience largely depends on ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and leptin (the fullness and satiation hormone) in the body. Sleep deprivation has been found to increase ghrelin and lower leptin levels in the body. This can also lead to an increase in sugar cravings because you’re tired and looking for an energy hit
A recent study in the Sleep Medicine journal discovered that previous research linking sleep deprivation with obesity failed to consider other factors. From what we know now, less sleep may hinder you from maintaining a healthy eating habit, but it won’t directly contribute to weight gain.
3. The role of sleep in physical recovery
Combining a healthy diet with high-intensity workouts is great, but what’s next? You will need time to recover from intense exercise and a restricted diet. To repeat the same routine the next day, you will have to give enough time for sleep, which is when you will recover the most.
You enter into different stages in the sleep cycle as time passes. These stages contribute to the recovery of your body and mind. Non-REM sleep causes higher protein synthesis, building your muscles with stronger strands.
Subsequently, deep sleep takes care of your energy replenishment. It would be best if you cycled through all of the phases of the sleep cycle to recover fully. When you wake up the following day, you will be ready to put in the time to exercise and eat well again and again.
Should you sleep more rather than hit the gym early?
By now, you hopefully see the integral role that sleep plays in fitness. However, this knowledge may beg the question: should you get more sleep instead of exercising early in the day?
Ideally, you should be prioritising both. You can go ahead with early morning physical exercise when you have had enough sleep and gone to bed at a decent time. Solid sleep habits and a sleep schedule will allow you to synchronise with your natural circadian rhythm. A steady circadian rhythm will help you stay awake and alert during strenuous activity. In turn, satisfying physical exertion will facilitate better sleep.
When you find yourself lacking sleep, it’s best to get that extra hour of sleep and exercise later in the day. If you force yourself to exercise without proper rest, you may end up with subpar exercise performance. It’s almost always better to add to your sleep time than push yourself to hit the gym early.
Don’t skip a good night’s sleep
Many fitness experts, influencers, and participants focus only on diet and exercise. What no one is talking enough about is sleep, and you may now see that sleep is the foundation of all the hard work put into the fitness journey.
You can exercise and eat well as much as you want, but without sleep, you will only see a fraction of the benefits you should enjoy. Take sleep as part of your fitness pursuit, and you will never go wrong as you pursue your goals.