The amount and quality of our sleep is directly linked to whether or not we keep in shape. When people think about fitness and getting in shape, the most common focuses are usually exercise and diet. We know that burning calories and eating right contribute to a better body, but what about rest? Mounting evidence shows that sleep is a vital component of fitness as well, important not only for energy, but also for keeping muscles healthy and hormones balanced. Research from Stanford found improved athletic performance when their basketball team slept more, and a Northwestern University study also found that people exercised longer on days following good sleep. Several studies also associate too little sleep with higher body fat and greater risk of obesity.
Similarly, if you have trouble sleeping and exercise isn’t part of your daily routine, it may be time to get moving. Studies have shown that regular, moderate aerobic exercise can decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. Working out has also been shown to boost your time in deep, or slow-wave, sleep. Increasingly, exercise is understood as a potentially effective treatment for sleep disorders including insomnia. Exercise, especially the kind that leads to weight loss, can also contribute to improvements with sleep apnea.
So, we now know that Sleep & Exercise are basically two peas in a pod. But, how can we balance the two? There are a few things to keep in mind:
- Routine is known to keep you consistent, so if that means waking up early and making it happen, or going straight after a long day of work to the gym, STICK TO THAT! No matter your workout style, intensity, or preference, if you are consistent, change WILL happen. Sometimes it’s just a success to get to the gym at ANY time during the day, but if you can avoid sweating hard right before bedtime, do so. Winding down before bed is a real thing! Don’t hype yourself up too much so that you can get as close to 8 hours of sleep as possible.
We tend to “wind down” by catching up on the last episode of Game of Thrones (guilty) or by checking emails in bed. Technology and the artificial blue lights can greatly affect our sleep cycle and quality. When we don’t sleep well, we don’t recover as well, and over time that will really stress our bodies. Stress can come in many forms, but usually fitness or weight loss plateaus are the most common! Turn off the TV and stop checking emails at least 30-45 minutes before you start falling asleep for less stress and better recovery.
- Nutrition before sleep is more important than most people think. Eating sufficient amounts of protein before bed ensures that your body can recover and keep rates of muscle protein synthesis elevated. Many people avoid eating before bed for fear of it making them fat. However, research does not support these fears. In fact a recent study demonstrated slightly greater fat loss in people who ate the majority of their carbohydrate intake at night compared to people who ate them throughout the day.
Sleep is incredibly important for a healthy and fit lifestyle. If you're not sure where to start, try indulging in one of our Sleep Kits - they're tailor made to you and your sleep ritual, to ensure that you're getting the best night's sleep possible. Take care of yourself and let us wish you sweet dreams!