The important links between sleep and exercise
Woman sleeping

When it comes to changing the clock, both the "spring forward" and the "fall back" cycles can have negative effects on your sleep and natural circadian rhythm. Sleep, as we all know, is extremely important for us to simply be able to properly function, and it can take a week or so to get adjusted to the new clock. ​We also know that regular physical activity is important for us to function at our best. However, in order for exercise to actually work, it is crucial that you get the right amount of sleep. Without the right amount of sleep, common goals such as building lean muscle mass and improving cardiovascular health cannot be met. In fact, without proper sleep, you are simply neglecting your body.

How much sleep do you need?

Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night is ideal, but needless to say, it is impossible to find the perfect balance all of the time. Figuring out how to balance your workouts with the right amount of ‘quality’ sleep is key. Sacrificing one for the other is not an option, as you will also be sacrificing how well you operate on a daily basis in your everyday life. Sacrificing your sleep for your workout can lead to nervous system imbalances and overtraining symptoms, such as chronic muscle soreness, which increases your chance of injury. What you need to remember is that you absolutely need both, so figure out a schedule that works and prioritizes your sleep while also letting you hit the weights the next day!

Better sleep, better workout?

The simple, short answer for this would definitely be YES! Your body and your mind are going to function better if you're getting the sleep you need. When you are rested, you are mentally sharper and you will be able to focus more on the task at hand. Bottom line, the more rested you are, the more efficient and more prepared you will be to crush your workout!

Sleep and exercise recovery

Not only do we repair and build the muscles worked during exercise when we sleep, we also produce ‘growth hormone’. Growth hormone stimulates muscle growth and repair, bone building, and fat burning. It helps us to repair our bodies after a strenuous workout and it is essential for us to reap the benefits of our workouts. Therefore, sleep and recovery is crucial for athletic performance.

Quality of sleep

There are 3 stages of sleep followed by your ‘deepest’ sleep stage: REM sleep. According to sleep specialists, the REM (rapid eye movement sleep) stage is the most important stage. It assists with immune system function, depression, weight loss, memory, and overall cognitive function. Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep has been linked to increased risk of developing the opposite of all of the above, such as decreased immune function, obesity, Alzheimer's, and an overall lack of cognitive function. In fact, lack of dreaming - which is only possible in the REM stage - has been linked to illness and depression.

It is uncertain why some people are either self-proclaimed light or heavy sleepers. Genetics, lifestyle, and undiagnosed sleep disorders can all contribute. Some people who get the full 8 hours of sleep every night might not spend as much time in a ‘deep sleep’ stage as the person only getting 6 hours of sleep, hence the “quality” of sleep is what matters.

Here are some tips on how to develop healthy sleep habits:

● Have a schedule - your body and your mind thrive on regulation, so maintain a set bedtime and wake time

● Do something relaxing before bed, such as reading a book or having a warm bath

● Turn off/be off of all electronic devices 30 minutes prior to bedtime

● Avoid drinking alcohol close to your set bedtime

● Don’t eat too close to bedtime (including snacking)

● Make your bedroom as comfortable and peaceful as possible

● Get into your REM sleep and dream about how you are going to beat your personal best the next day in your workout!

Bottom line, the better you sleep, the better you are at everything you do ​- especially​ physical exercise!

Jennifer Slauenwhite is a Fitness Professional and a Mother of two with a passion for health and overall well-being. She has spent her entire life in the fitness industry through many family owned and operated fitness centres and has spent the last decade cultivating a community of strong like-minded women. She strives to set an example for women to be the best they can be by channeling their inner athlete and putting up some healthy competition against themselves! #leadbyexample

Jennifer Slauenwhite is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.
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