How a lack of sleep can affect your workouts

How a lack of sleep can affect your workouts

When it comes to exercising, knowing what to do in the gym is one thing. Aligning your workout goals with how you treat your body outside of the gym is just as important - including your sleep. Sleep and fitness go hand in hand, let’s face it. We need energy, and we need time for our bodies to repair and grow - all of which, we gain from high quality sleep. Without sleep, our efforts in the gym or during home workouts are quite simply, wasted. Getting adequate sleep is an important part of physical health. But let’s explore how sleeping and exercise work together a little more closely.

Sleep and working out

Our bodies do incredible things. But during exercise, we put them through a lot. When we sleep and exercise, our bodies use this time to recover post-exercise. As well as conserve energy, repair itself (crucial in weight training) and build the muscle we strive for. During quality sleep, our bodies produce growth hormone. Now, guys, this won’t mean you’re gonna rocket up to 6 foot 2. When we’re kids, this hormone does help us to grow, but during adulthood, it’s all about building lean muscle. When you put your body through a tough workout, getting adequate sleep is an important part of physical health - allowing your body to recover. However, studies have suggested that over 30% of Americans don’t get enough sleep. While you may feel like you’re functioning perfectly fine, sleep and exercise go hand in hand to achieve your fitness goals. Not getting enough sleep could mean that your time in the gym is going to waste. Exercise and sleep deprivation is just not the combo we’re going for, guys.

Does exercise help you sleep?

Can a workout help you sleep? Most definitely. That feeling of sleep-inducing exhaustion after a tough exercise regime or day out on a long walk has a ton of benefits - and research to back it up, too.
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So much so that one study of individuals reporting less than 6.5 hours sleep per night carried out moderate exercise - such as walking, treadmill running/walking or riding a stationary bike - achieved an extra 75 minutes of sleep each night. So, if you’re wondering, ‘does exercise help you sleep?’ the answer is very much: Yes, it does! But working out does more than help us shed weight, stay trim or build muscle, exercise helps the brain release adenosine - which makes us sleepy. If you’re someone that struggles to nod off at night, you can improve your sleep with fitness. Here’s a fun fact for you. While Adenosine makes you sleepy, chugging back cups of caffeinated coffee actually blocks this chemical, helping us feel alert instead. While exercise and sleep deprivation won’t do you any good for reaching your fitness goals, your sleep will most certainly benefit from tough exercise that helps us feel tired. The more we workout, the more our bodies are driven by this chemical to get quality rest.

How does exercise affect sleep?

While we’ve already covered the benefits that sleep and working out can have when combined, there are instances where your sleep can be affected by exercise. Yep, we’re talking about you late night gym-goers. Working out late in the day or evening may actually keep you awake for longer. During exercise, our blood gets pumping, heightening our heart rate and somewhat waking us up - so if you’re expecting to hit the hay soon after, you may need to give your body some time downtime first. We’re all different when it comes to sleep and exercise, but finding the sweet spot for you is important. Whether you prefer working out in the morning, or later in the day, the right type of exercise may help you sleep better.
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According to studies, those who reported greater exertion before sleep were found to be more efficient sleepers. The combination of high quality, undisturbed sleep and working out is no coincidence! While another study showed that moderate-intensity exercise before heading to bed helped to alleviate pre-sleep anxiety. The best advice? Find out a workout schedule that works for you. If you find that you struggle to sleep, getting yourself too pumped before bed may be part of the problem. In this case, try exercising earlier in the day.

Sleep and fitness: Will sleep improve my workouts?

It doesn’t matter what you’re aiming to do the following morning, high quality sleep is always going to benefit your body. Whether you’re jumping out of bed for an exam, or an early morning meeting, getting a good amount of rest will better your mind and body function. When we wake up groggy and irritable, the last thing we want to do is hit the gym. Research has shown that getting a good night’s rest helps keep us motivated to exercise and stick to our workout plans. It’s not just the repairing potential that a combination of sleep and exercise can have, but sleep affects our concentration, mood, and focus too. All of these factors help us prepare ourselves for a workout and keep to our fitness goals. While on the other side, exercise and sleep deprivation can be an incredibly tough combination. Not getting enough rest each night can make our workouts feel a lot harder, meaning we don’t reach our full potential. When we’re full of energy and motivation, pushing ourselves a little further each time is where the body goals magic happens! Exercise and sleep deprivation won’t necessarily impact your cardiovascular and respiratory responses to exercise, but when you’re exercising with little in the tank, things will naturally feel harder. When we experience even the odd night of bad sleep, our endurance can decrease, according to studies - likely due to our exercise feeling tougher. This is a common experience after poor rest, whether we’re heading to the gym or finding it hard to concentrate at work.

Do you need more sleep if you exercise?

While sleeping and exercise go hand in hand to achieve your fitness goals, there’s nothing to confirm we’ll turn into sports stars after 7 or 8 hours of sleep! Sorry, guys. Getting extra shuteye each night won’t necessarily impact your exercise in the form of running faster, lifting heavier or lasting longer… But, getting adequate sleep is an important part of physical health.
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However, sleep and exercise are examined more closely on the flip side, in terms of exercise and sleep deprivation. A lack of sleep and working out regularly can lead to overtraining symptoms, leaving your body at higher risk of injury.

Sleep and exercise: Which is the priority?

Decent sleep and workouts out are both pretty important, but does one take priority? Well, no. As you most definitely need both! Of course, in theory, that’s great. But in practice, it isn’t always easy to strike that perfect balance. In that instance, prioritising sleep is recommended, unless you regularly sleep pretty well already! If you’re a 7 to 8 hours a night kinda guy to begin with, get your butt in that gym. If you’re more likely to clock less than 6 hours most nights of the week, getting an extra hour of quality sleep will benefit your workout. If you push yourself to get up and to the gym with little sleep, the chances are, your workout will suffer anyway. But how do you balance sleep and fitness to complement one another? You need to find the right balance that works for you. Whether that means switching up the time you workout, or heading to bed earlier. You can’t achieve your body goals without rest, and you can’t exercise without sleep!

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