When it comes to health and exercise, you already know physical activity is essential. However, what you do outside the gym matters too—what you eat, what you drink, and especially how you sleep. The quality of your sleep is an extremely important component of your physical health, thereby contributing majorly to your ability to exercise.
Sleep and exercise have a bidirectional relationship, with one impacting the other and vice versa. You exercise for a purpose—to build muscle mass, for cardiovascular health, to boost endurance, and more—and all these goals require sleep. Often the benefits you seek through exercise won’t happen if you don’t allow your body to complete the physical rejuvenation process of sleep.
In other words, without sleep, exercise won’t deliver the benefits you seek. Here are some of the factors that influence this relationship.
Your body follows a natural internal clock that tells you to sleep at night and wakes you in the morning. It also influences your wakefulness and energy levels throughout the day. Therefore, when you consistently get insufficient sleep, it throws off your body’s circadian rhythm, affecting your ability to physically exert yourself through exercise.
If you aren’t that physically active, you might not need as much sleep as another person. But, if you lead an active lifestyle, your body will definitely need rest. When you exercise, your body releases adenosine, which makes your body feel sleepy. When you are well-rested, you can perform at your best capacity, meaning more intense gym sessions and less fatigue.
On the flip side, if your body is unsure if it should fall asleep or stay awake, the adenosine can further throw off the circadian rhythm, making an already sleepy person even sleepier after exercise.
Your body regulates your hormone levels as you sleep. Studies have found sleep deprivation interferes with hunger hormones, throwing off the balance of your hunger throughout the day. When you are working hard on your diet and eating clean, this can potentially be a nightmare.
Similarly, sleep loss also lowers cortisol levels and increases melatonin secretion. When these hormone levels are not regulated, you will feel tired, and your body won’t know when it should wake up, work out, or relax. Serotonin, cortisol, and endorphins, hormones released by exercise, help regulate your mood and make your body crave sleep at night.
Often, people start working out to tone or build their muscles. But if you think you build muscle when you are in the gym, you are wrong. Muscle building is a cellular process. When you work out, you tear muscle fibres. When you rest, your body repairs these fibres, adding muscle mass and helping them grow stronger.
Rest is critical to the overall recovery process, which is why you should pay close attention to your sleep schedule. Sleep is when the major adjustments happen in the brain and body—your body takes stock of what processes need healing or repair in the body. When you weight train during an exercise session, your body will learn it needs more muscle and will thereby adjust itself at night.
Ideally, you should get seven to 10 hours of sleep or more each night, depending on your routine. When your muscles recover properly, you will more likely be able to benefit from your hard work and continue to improve. Like consistent exercise, sleep also improves mental health.
Endurance and Cardiovascular Health
When you work out, you put your body through a lot of stress, but the good kind of stress. This happens due to your increased heart rate and your muscles pushing their limits to perform the task. After all this work, you also need to relax.
Homeostasis is a process that maintains your body systems with narrow operating ranges, such as body temperature and blood pH. Similarly, allostasis refers to maintaining the stability of your body via physiological parameters to counteract challenges. Both these processes aim to create the optimal level of different physiological parameters in response to a threat. The price of these adjustments is usually wear and tear. Sleeping allows your body to address and mend that damage.
Joint and Muscle Support
Often people associate muscle and joint pain with a weak core, constant sitting, and poor form in the gym. However, poor sleeping positions and the wrong mattress can impact joint and muscle mobility as well. If you experience pain while sleeping, it can also translate into your ability to exercise.
While there is no single proper position you should sleep in, the healthiest position seems to be sleeping on your back with pillows underneath your knees. It offers the right amount of support to your lower back and neck. Also, ensure you have a good bed that provides the right amount of support. If you feel the mattress you sleep isn’t good enough, read various mattress reviews, like king vs. California king pros and cons, before purchasing a new one.
Exercise Your Snooze Button
The bottom line is that you should get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep every night to lead an active lifestyle. If you haven’t been getting sufficient sleep, it is time you rethink your schedule and figure out how to fit in your regular everyday activities, including your workout, without sacrificing your sleep. You can’t have one without the other. Both are necessary for you to be able to operate at 100%.