The Importance of Sleep in Fitness

We all know the many physical and health benefits sleep can have on the body, but how about its effects on fitness? Where does sleep tie in there?

As standard, we should all aim for 7.5 to 9 hours sleep per night, however, for some that just isn’t possible. We get it, life gets in the way!

Athletes or those with higher energy expenditure (more active in the day) will need more sleep than normal, the same way you would need more calories when exercising. You’re burning more, therefore you replace more.
During your sleep, you’re repairing and recovering from any damage caused by stress and exertion built up throughout the day.

Reduced energy levels:
If your sleep is suffering then so will your energy levels, which will only increase or worsen if you don’t allow your body the rest it needs.
But why does our energy suffer? One word, glycogen!
Glycogen being glucose from food that is stored in animals and converted to energy when needed goes hand-in-hand with sleep. Therefore not enough sleep will result in less glycogen, therefore, less energy!.

Sleep deprivation will lead to the release of cortisol on the body, a stress hormone. The increase in cortisol will lead to lower growth hormone levels affecting repair and recovery in the body making you more prone to injury.
A great way to monitor and log your sleep is using an app such as Sleep Cycle. With Sleep Cycle you have the ability to monitor trends in sleep quality, average time asleep, the time you go to bed and so much more.
This is something that I have been using for over two years now and recommend to all my clients. Why? It’s simple, nailing sleep means improving recovery!

Below is an overview of my sleep quality and average time going to bed over the past 6 months using Sleep Cycle. (Yes, I’m a late sleeper. I’m working on it!).

All sports require a form of alertness, a lack of sleep will have a play on effect with your ability to make accurate split-second decisions, which can have a serious impact on performance!
Just like your body, your brain needs re-charging also. Don’t run yourself into the ground.

So how can I improve the quality of my sleep?!
Blue light blocking:
A few tips I have learnt and adapted is using an app called F.lux on my Mac. This adjusts the colour of your display according to your location and time of day, replicating the room you’re in.
F.lux prevents blue light on your screen which has been shown to have a negative effect on sleep.
Also turning off all screens or devices 30minutes – 1hour before sleep and keeping the room dark. Similar to F.lux this will help prevent blue light absorbed helping you to relax.
Relaxing the muscles:
Having a warm shower/bath an hour before going to bed. This helps relax the muscles and puts you into a comfortable state, making it easier to sleep and drift off.
This may be an obvious one to some, but the temperature of your room can have a large impact on your sleep. Research has shown the ideal room temperature to be 15-20 degrees Celsius.
If you’re a late lifter, try to avoid caffeine based stimulants. Caffeine can remain active in your system up to 6 hours after being consumed.

Before you go ahead and make drastic changes to your sleep routine, work on one thing at a time. Slowly implement blue light blocking an hour before bed. Maybe start off with 30minutes before, then after two weeks increase that to 1 hour before.
The same way you would approach progressive overload within an individuals training program, one thing at a time.

Have any other top tips on sleep that you find effective? Leave a comment on our social posts and let us know what works for you!