You probably know that a good night’s sleep is important, but how can it contribute to your fitness goals? Here, Keoghan Bellew, a Personal Trainer at Fitness Superstore, shares some pointers on how sleep can help you achieve your next personal best.
Sleep is vital to our overall health and wellbeing in many ways. Poor sleep can have an immediate effect on our hormones, exercise, and performance. It even impacts your brain function, and getting enough sleep helps you recover from strenuous activity. Yet a recent YouGov survey has found that one in eight Britons said they had problems drifting off, and out of people who sleep less than five hours per night, 41% report having issues falling asleep.
If you are struggling to get the amount of sleep you need — whether because of stress or simply a busy lifestyle — or you’re just curious about how a better sleep routine could level up your fitness, we’ve got some tips and information together for you.
What does sleep do for your fitness?
It’s easy to get caught up in our fitness routines and forget that sleep and rest can be just as vital as the exercises we’re completing in the gym that week. Sleep can contribute so much to your fitness journey, so consider the impact it could make.
Firstly, sleep will improve your mental health and give you much more energy throughout the day — both for your workouts and anything else. Studies have shown that losing sleep contributes to an increase in negative moods and a decrease in positive moods (Better Health), so it’s well worth prioritising your sleep so you can come to your training or sports sessions feeling fresh. In turn, this will make motivation and focus easier, allowing you to stay on track to meet your fitness goals. Adequate sleep has even been shown to help people remain motivated to stick to their workout plans in a recent study by the National Library of Medicine.
When you sleep, the tiny micro-tears caused by exercise are repaired. This is what helps you to build strength throughout working out, and it allows you to gradually push yourself further with every training session, race, or sports match. Without enough sleep, this muscle repair won’t happen as effectively, and so you won’t be maximising the effectiveness of your workouts. You can increase the rate of repair while awake using compression clothing, but sleep is still more effective, so if you’re reaching a plateau in your progress, consider whether your bedtime routine could be playing a part.
You might also be more likely to snack on unhealthy foods when sleep deprived. Sleep helps to regulate the body’s production of ghrelin and leptin, neurotransmitters that let the body know when to consume calories. So, making time for eight hours of sleep could really up your fitness levels.
Building a bedtime routine
There are many ways that you can naturally boost your sleeping pattern to ensure that you are getting enough shut-eye. Lots of these pointers might seem like common sense, but by being intentional about your sleep and planning a bedtime routine, you can ensure that your sleep is consistently adequate.
Optimise your bedroom
Having a bedroom that is optimised for sleep goes a long way towards making it easier to drift off. Important things to consider are whether your bedroom is dark enough, as darkness helps many people fall asleep. This is because light is a signal to our bodies that we should be waking up and is one of the environmental factors that regulate the production of melatonin, a hormone which stimulates the body’s internal sleeping and waking clock. So, install blackout curtains or blinds if needed, avoid blue light from electronic devices close to bedtime, and try dimming the lights earlier in the evening.
As well as this, you can try keeping your bedroom cool as lower temperatures tend to be better for falling asleep. Lastly, try to make your bedroom relaxing — incense or a diffuser, a relaxing podcast or the radio, mediation audios, and calming décor can all be useful.
Implement sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe having a reliable bedtime routine that will help relax us and prepare us for sleep. Designing your perfect routine and sticking to it can make it much easier to get some shut-eye. There are some consistent ideas, such as limiting the use of electronic devices an hour before bed and installing apps on devices to turn the blue light to red light, as this disturbs our sleeping patterns less. It can also help to have a warm bath prior to bedtime, as the drop in temperature as we dry off can help send signals about sleep to our brains. You should also go to sleep and start your relaxing routine at the same time each night.
But some of your sleep hygiene pointers will be unique to you: you might find that reading or drawing helps you wind down towards sleep. Or you might discover that spending some time meditating or having a favourite cup of herbal tea after dinner relaxes you. It might take a while to find the perfect routine for you, but it will be well worth sticking to when you find the right activities.
Find a bedtime routine for fitness
As well as the usual advice about finding a better sleep routine, it’s important to make sure that you add in some time to support your fitness goals. A warm bath can aid muscle relaxation after strains or tough training, as well as help you feel ready for sleep. You can also add in time to do some stretches or light Pilates or yoga before settling down to sleep, and this can gently ensure that your muscles don’t become stiff from working too hard and then sitting still.
Other ideas might include wearing compression clothing the evening after a workout, which can help your muscles to repair after the impact of training. Whatever you choose, adding in some time to heal and support your body after you take part in your chosen sport can make a surprising amount of difference in terms of your performance.
Take the time to optimise your sleep routine and enjoy feeling more refreshed and ready for your workouts! By taking time to relax and keeping to a consistent bedtime schedule, you can ensure that you are getting all the energy and muscle repair time you need to really maximise your workouts and energy levels.