Telling you that exercise is good for sleep is nothing new. For decades, we have known that active days will lead to a better night’s sleep; it’s logical. The reverse, that a decent sleep affects your ability to exercise, is not really discussed to the same extent.
Given the therapeutic and resting values of sleep, it might seem surprising that this has been overlooked. Sleep and exercise are bidirectional: the effects are felt both ways, so how is our modern sleep crisis affecting our ability to keep fit?
Which is Better: Sleep or Exercise?
Juggling a busy working life, socialising and family with keeping fit and healthy can mean that sacrifices are made; normally, this is in the way of sleep. In order to schedule a workout into your daily routine, opting for an early morning rise to add a few more hours to your day might seem like the obvious option.
However when sacrificing sleep for exercise, you’re increasing the amount of ghrelin - the hunger hormone - in your body and lowering your natural energy levels. Both are counterproductive, particularly if you are exercising to lose weight or increase endurance.
Exercising in the morning is seen regularly as the best option and night exercising can be looked on as inhibiting sleep. Now, this might be the experience of some, but generally, studies show that regardless of the time of day you choose to exercise, it will result in a good sleep.
One shouldn’t be neglected for the other. The relationship between sleep and exercise works hand in hand: if you’re doing enough exercise, your body will be falling asleep more easily and getting a deeper night’s sleep; and if you’re getting a decent sleep, your exercise will achieve the maximum benefits.
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Increase Your Energy Levels and Maximise Your Motivation
It makes sense that if you suffer from a poor night’s sleep, your activity levels will be somewhat lower because of the tiredness you experience throughout the day. Sleep deprivation is categorized as a lack of sleep that affects your ability to function during the day and generally results from less than 7 hours sleep. One performance it can impede in a number of ways is our ability to exercise.
Even before starting to exercise, the chances of you initiating a run, cycle, climb… whatever your exercise of choice might be, is already lower. Following this, maintaining a regular exercise routine can be hindered by a lack of sleep. The reasons for this make complete sense: functioning on a limited sleep impacts your energy levels by decreasing the amount of energy you have and negatively affecting your motivation. Your night sleep can generally mirrors your attitude toward activity and your physical ability to part take in fitness the following day.
As well as feeling physically tired, a lack of sleep can also affect your concentration and cloud your memory. Hitting the wall, for example, might happen surprisingly earlier than normal and disrupt your fitness targets, as a limited sleep both inhibits your coordination and limits your agility.
Characteristics of low energy, high levels of fatigue and sleepiness are more in line with gaining, rather than losing weight. So in order to maximise your energy levels and in turn get the most your of your workout, a good night’s sleep is vital.
The Relationship Between Sleep and Weight Loss
You might exercise just to keep fit. You might have your own personal fitness target to reach or your own health ambition. But the fact is that many people are exercising to lose weight. When you are exercising to lose weight, sleep is an even greater factor to identify and take care of.
As outlined earlier, a lack of sleep results in an increase of the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin in your system. It also decreases the hormone leptin that is responsible for telling your body when it is full. The result is an increase in your appetite, firstly encouraging you to eat more then leaving your body unable to respond when it is actually full, leading to overeating.
Help Your Body Recover from Exercise by Getting a Good Sleep
Whether you are a pro-athlete, a dedicated gym goer or just starting to incorporate exercise into your routine, the one thing that is a must for everyone’s recovery is sleep.
As well as causing tiredness and lower energy levels; a lack of sleep simultaneously causes your muscles to fatigue more quickly leading to an increase in your risk of injury. Exercising with the best motivation and intentions can be counterproductive if you’re not getting the rest your body needs to recover.
During sleep the release of hormones is increased; one being the growth hormone, which strengthens bones and muscles. Without an adequate sleep, your body won’t be producing the amount of this hormone it needs resulting in the limited repair and strengthening of your bones and muscles. If strength training is own of your fitness goals then this is something in particular you have to be aware of, as with a shorter sleep your muscles will not be strengthening at the rate you might expect.
Sleep Well, Exercise Well!
So while you might know that your quality of sleep improves with exercise, remember that the relationship works the other way too. Sleep is a free and relaxing remedy that works hand-in-hand with exercise to boost your health, so make the most of it!