The Sleep/Fitness Relationship
Unsurprisingly enough, your sleep & workouts are closely linked and it can be hard to get the work/workout/life/sleep balance right. We’re sure there are plenty of you out there sacrificing your precious sleeps to fit in your time at the gym but it doesn’t have to be this way. Skipping your rest days is bad enough, but pushing yourself to get to the gym on minimal sleep? The science suggests that it’s just not worth it.
We’re not saying to give it all up on those days where you spent more of the evening staring at the ceiling than you did the inside of your eyelids but when you can’t find the time to squeeze it all in, it’s okay to put your workout on the back burner. Whilst you may be able to get away with 45 minutes at the gym on a lower than average nights sleep every now & then, continuing to do so will more than likely ruin your progress and you’ll find yourself more prone to injury. Your body needs sleep & active rest days to recover and repair so pushing yourself on the days where you can barely keep your eyes open is going to lead to exhaustion and even resentment.
How does sleep effect your workout?
It’s easy; a bad nights sleep will negatively affect your performance and a good nights sleep will positively affect your performance. Researches believe your performance is negatively affected by a bad nights sleep for the simple reason that it feels harder – you may already know this from personal experience but everything feels tougher when you haven’t had the right amount of sleep. Something else that you may have also experienced, is that dreading feeling when it comes time to clock into the gym. Lack of sleep has been known to affect motivation which in the long term isn’t good for your routine or programme.
On the flip side, getting those 7-9 hours has been proven to improve your fitness due to better motivation, time to recover & consistency.
Your lack of sleep has many other side affects that have subsequent repocussions on your health. Joint pains, headaches and even poor food choices all affect your physical performance.
How does exercise effect your sleep?
A moderate-to-vigorous workout (or any form of exercise) has been proven to reduce the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep once your head hits the pillow. You can also recreate the amount of time you spend awake in bed with the same workout. A recent study found that the majority of people who exercise after 8pm fall asleep quicker, experience a more adequate amount of deep sleep and work up feeling better rested suggesting that a late night workout may be beneficial to some people.
Not only does exercise help you sleep, it’s also been proven to be the best medicine when it comes to anxiety & stress. Regularly increasing your heart rate releases endorphins and other feel good chemicals in your brain which make you feel better and in turn, increases your sleep drive.
What can you do instead?
Some days, you just need to accept that the gym isn’t happening. You don’t have to give entirely though. On the days where it’s been particularly difficult to wake up, choose an active rest day. Active rest dats are the best way to keep your body moving and active without doing any further damage to your muscles. Hikes, bike rides, restorative yoga, swimming, dancing, roller blading anything that makes you feel happy and refreshed will still give you that endorphins rush that you crave from a workout. Rest days are about healing so try not to feel guilty about not being in the gym. Every little helps though so try parking your car at the back of that car park and walking that little further when heading out.