Why Sleep Helps Your Fitness Goals
It’s time to talk about sleep again.
Here’s the thing: the more we know about sleep the more obvious it becomes how bad a job most of us are doing at getting enough.
You’re awesome, but you’re no Superhero. You need sleep!
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t actually train your body to run on less sleep and anybody who says they can is just plain kidding themselves.
The fact is, if you sleep for less than 7-8 hours a night, your mental and physical performance will begin to suffer. Blame biology if you must, but that’s how things work.
You can’t be committed to a healthy lifestyle when you don’t have the energy for it.
We hear “8 hours” as an optimal amount of nightly sleep, but for most of us who have jobs, kids, hobbies, and Netflix marathons to get to, 8 hours seems a little impossible. Most people aren’t even getting anywhere near that and are paying the price in a lot of different ways. Experts say your body needs AT LEAST 7 hours of sleep to be able to function properly and ward off any related health problems, but 8-10 is best.
The Basic Body/Sleep Breakdown
If you’re sleep for fewer than 7 hours per night, then you’ve likely experienced some or all of the following:
1. Lack of focus
– A foggy brain is a telltale sign of sleep deprivation and we all know that anytime your cognitive and decision making abilities are impaired, it’s never a good thing.
2. Sick All The Time
– Your immune system is one of the first things to really break down when regular sleep isn’t happening. This puts you at risk for any manner of unsavory illness. We’re talking bacteria and viruses all the way to heart disease and every other inflammation-related ailment you can think of. You need your immune system, and your immune system needs sleep to operate effectively.
3. Weight Gain
– That’s right, sleep deprivation can actually add to your fat stores. The link between a lack of quality sleep and excess body fat is a credible one. The less sleep you get, the higher the levels of cortisol you have. Cortisol is a stress hormone which can negatively affect your appetite, making you more prone to overeating and increased caloric intake. There’s a reason people self-medicate with food and it’s usually because they’re too tired and stressed out to fight for a better decision. Besides, if you’re sleeping, you’re not eating, and your body is spending valuable time repairing, resting and preparing for the day ahead.
4. Your Workouts Are Too Hard
A major sign of sleep deprivation is your body’s inability to recover. Your central nervous system is working overtime, you’re fatigued and low on energy. Your muscles don’t have enough downtime to repair and recover before they’re needed yet again. If you don’t have enough energy to get through the day, how can you possibly expect to get through a workout? Quality sleep is absolutely crucial. You’re no dummy. You know what a great workout feels like and you definitely know how a bad one feels. Sleep is the X-factor for sure.
5. Caffeine Dependence
– While caffeine does have its benefits, too much can cause dependency issues. Your body becomes less sensitive to its effects and will require larger and larger doses. This puts you at risk for some caffeine-related health issues like insomnia, restlessness, muscle tremors, anxiety, upset stomach and even heart palpitations. It pays to be specific about your caffeine intake and leave the energy drinks at the store. Your sleep and your health will thank you!
This One’s for the Mamas
Let’s talk to all the mamas out there specifically. For you, the fight for good sleep is likely a constant battle that leaks into just about every other aspect of your life. If the baby isn’t hungry or the toddler is up with a bad dream at night, then you’re probably still busy trying to accomplish all the stuff you didn’t get done during the day when they’re all awake anyway. Before you know it, it’s 1 am when you finished the last load of laundry and you’re staring down an early morning with dread, tired before you even begin.
Sleep deprivation and being a mom go together like pb&j.
You know the importance of a good sleep routine because you only need to look at your kids for proof. When they get good sleep the difference is obvious in their mood, energy and affect too. Guess what? As a mom, the same is true for you. A full night’s sleep means more energy to get through your day, increased patience, and maybe you’ll even find time to squeeze in a workout too. A healthy and fit mama starts with a well-rested mama, and though it may seem impossible and even improbable at times I promise, good sleep can happen for you.
- Set a bedtime alarm for YOU – a nightly reminder to shut off the Netflix, put the laundry or emails away, brush your teeth and get to bed. Make it non-negotiable, the alarm abides.
- Turn your brain off – at least 30 minutes before your nighttime alarm turn your screens off and let your brain decompress. Take the time to stretch and roll out, meditate or even read a book! Your quality of sleep will improve and you’ll find the distraction-free time much appreciated.
- Have a routine – routines aren’t just for kids. Make your nightly ritual a habit and your sleep will fall in line too.
Go to Bed Already
The simple math of the matter is that the more sleep you get, the better focus you have, the less fat you carry around, and the better your brain and body performs. All of that makes it easier to balance the different demands of life and meet any personal and fitness related goals you may have in mind.
So while sleep may seem like the holy grail, I promise it’s not that far out of reach. Take the time to eliminate the things that stand between you and a good night’s rest and climb on board the snooze train to get yourself some sleep!