battered and depleted throughout the day, and at night, sleep is the healing process.
Getting a good night's sleep is especially important if you are an athlete, no matter how serious of an athlete you are. Most every athlete knows that there is some connection that exists between sleep and working out, but the specifics are often not understood.
The reality of the links between sleep and exercise is two-fold - the relation is powerful and deeply beneficial in multiple aspects of your life.
Sleep Improves Athletic Performance
I know, this is a pretty powerfully sweeping statement, but this knowledge does come from reputed studies and a wide variety of personal stories.
The bottom line: the better you sleep, the better you will perform. This is regardless of the type of exercising you do, whether you play on a local (or national) basketball team, run competitively, or just go to the gym a few days a week.
The reasons for this are pretty straightforward. When you work out, again regardless of the type of exercise you are performing, your muscles are tearing apart and your energy and fluidity levels are decreasing.
Like I mentioned earlier, your body physically gets battered, even if you don’t get injured, per se. Now, sleep acts as a recharge - it literally heals you. When you are asleep, your body is in a heavily relaxed state, your heart rate is low and slow, and your body doesn’t have to work as hard to keep you functioning.
This means that it can devote energy and resources to repairing cellular damage and standardizing fluid levels. The result is that you wake up in better condition, with greater energy, and so are better prepared for another hard day of training.
More important, though, is the result of your athletic performance if you are under-sleeping. Sleep deprivation increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases inflammation, and reduces the production of glycogens. Basically, you’ll be more fatigued and less focused, as well as having to deal with greater levels of stress and irritation that come from not getting those magical 8 hours.
People Who Exercise Sleep Better
I mentioned earlier how the links between exercise and sleep are two-folded. Just as sleep helps your athletics, your athletics help your sleep. People who exercise report better sleep, in general. And people who exercise at incredibly vigorous levels report higher and more consistent quality of sleep.
The reasoning behind this biological reality is, again, pretty straightforward. You may not remember this, but when you were a toddler, your mom or dad probably took you to a park or had you run around in the backyard, to tire you out. And after each highly-intense play-session, you would promptly fall into your daily nap.
While you may have outgrown naps, exercise tires out your body, which makes better sleep more attainable. There are a few biological reasons for this. When you exercise, your core temperature hugely increases and there is evidence that the drop in temperature once you are done exercising promotes sleep.
Exercise is also proven to be a strong method of reducing anxiety and depression, two things that are strongly linked to insomnia. With lower stress levels and a mind and body that are both tired and relaxed, sleep comes easier and feels better.
While those two statements provide the basis for the cyclical link between sleep and exercise, there are a few other facts that are good to know.
Less Time Sitting Is Always Better
We live in a society where the gross majority of people spend much of their days hunched and seated, over a desk, typing away at their computer. There has been a lot of research conducted on the health implications of sitting, and the results are largely negative.
Sitting results in muscle strains in your back and neck, as well as your wrists, and is also incredibly restrictive. Studies have found that people who sit less, sleep better. The specific numbers are at 8 hours - if you can sit less than 8 hours a day, you will likely experience an improved quality of sleep.
With that, people who exercise, by the nature of exercise, spend less of their day sitting. Yes, there’s the car ride to the gym, but at least one or more hours of your day is taken up with physical activity - that helps your body stretch out, helps you feel better, and keeps you out of your chair.
So, not only does exercise tire out your body for sleep, but it also contributes to a healthier lifestyle, which makes your sleep even better. See more tips on how to live a healthier life on this site.
There Are No Time Restraints
There is a pretty consistent misconception that exercising close to bedtime is bad for your quality of sleep. Luckily, this is just a misconception.
In reality, you can exercise at 6 A.M or 9:30 at night, you’ll still sleep better. Although, for best sleep-related results, the later on in the day you work out, the better. For this, mid-to-late afternoon is optimal, depending, of course, on your schedule.
The links between sleep and exercise are clear and double-edged. One helps the other, which helps the other, and so on. Whether you are getting good sleep or bad sleep, the result is a vicious, unending cycle, that simply gets worse (or better) the longer you are in it.
If you consistently work out and get your 8 hours of sleep, that process will simply continue. If you get consistently bad sleep, you will, likely, keep getting bad sleep, and your workouts won’t go well, which helps contribute to the poor state of your sleep.
The point: sleep is your body’s natural (and magical) way of healing and recharging. It is of utmost importance to your overall health, in a myriad of ways.
And exercise can help your sleep become even better - higher quality of sleep is the one thing that everybody seems to constantly be seeking. All you have to do to hit those Z’s is to hit those weights.
by Daniel DeMoss
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