We have all experienced that one night, where you close your eyes only to find your mind still firing on all cylinders. You toss, you turn, you stare at the ceiling, and then you toss and turn again. Although you are physically and mentally exhausted, you just cannot will yourself to sleep. Through bloodshot eyes, you check the time, and it’s 3 am! It suddenly dawns on you that you need to be up in two hours to train, and panic shoots through your body, you get angry, throw a tantrum, screaming into your pillow…. and now you are wide awake, and absolutely shattered. You missed training at the gym, you growled at everyone at work, you stuffed your face with junk, and actually dozed off in the sales meeting you were running. In short, you didn’t only miss on reaching your fitness potential today, but your day is now an absolute disaster!
Sleep deprivation is hell, torture in fact, not to mention a great hindrance in reaching our fitness potential. Did you know that we spend roughly a third of our lives sleeping? Sleep plays an important role in tissue and muscle repair, restoration, and brain function. Lack of sleep negatively affects our cognitive function and physical performance and reduces strength and motivation – all of which could potentially lead to injury.
Sleep affects our moods and our health and in general, impacts our lives, both now and later in life. Depriving our body of sleep takes a toll on our immune system function. Without proper sleep, our blood pressure starts to go up, blood sugar levels rise, and the likelihood of illnesses become a clear reality. However, studies showed that there have been actual reversals of heart disease on people who made radical changes in their sleeping habits – in conjunction with regular fitness training, healthy eating habits, and significant reduction of stress levels.
Sleep affects our health, both now and later on in life. Depriving our body of sleep will take a toll on our immune system function. Without proper sleep, our blood pressure starts to go up, blood sugar levels rise, and the likelihood of illnesses become a clear reality.
Ever wonder why you’re more likely to get the flu after burning the midnight oil? Research has shown that after 24 hours without sleep, damaging changes in the body start to take place. The white blood cells in our body play a crucial role in immunity and white blood cells react immediately to sleep deprivation. A night of no sleep can wreak havoc with our immune system, and repeated sleep deprivation can increase the risk of heart disease.
So how much sleep is enough sleep?
Generally, seven to eight hours of sleep a day would be ideal. However, what works for one person may not work for others. There are some who may need just five or six hours, and there are others who need more like ten hours. Everyone’s sleep needs are different, and genetics can come into play here as well, however, it is more about the quality of sleep that you get every day rather than the quantity.
Studies have proven that sleep is essential to both our mental and physical performance and the less sleep we get at night and the longer we go without a wink, the bigger the impossibility for us to reach our fitness potential.
Does sleep really affect training?
Training while sleep deprived doesn’t mean that you won’t see benefits from your sessions! All I am trying to explain is that your strength and gains could be 20-30% more had you had a good night’s rest. Getting enough and good quality sleep is one golden rule that every trainer should abide by for your long-term fitness goals if you truly want to reach your fitness potential. A deep understanding of the reasons why sleep can seriously affect your fitness potential is vital for your fitness and health long-term. Needless to say, depriving your body of enough sleep is akin to compromising your immune system, which in turn compromises your ability to perform to your maximum capacity during training and your body’s capability to recover from intensive workouts.
So what about the impact of chronic sleep deprivation and training? Even if you can live the day with the drowsiness that comes hand in hand with lack of sleep, or you drink 8 cups of coffee to get through the day, your body must still carry the load. The mood is also impacted, leaving you agitated, depressed and short-tempered throughout the day. So for a trainer, it really has a negative effect on their ability to motivate themselves up for an intensive, productive workout.
Even if you can live the day with the drowsiness that comes along with a lack of sleep and by drinking cups and cups of coffee to give you a kick, you and your body will still carry the load. Your mood will greatly be impacted leaving you feeling agitated, depressed, and short-tempered throughout the day and your body feeling sluggish and fatigued. And all these will have a huge negative effect as you train in the gym as it will affect your strength, reflex, and ability to motivate yourself to keep up to that intensive, productive workout.
HormoneS? What has it got to do with sleep & fitness potential?
Let’s take a look inside the body. Most trainers know about the human growth hormone (HGH). HGH stimulates protein synthesis, helps break down fats that supply energy for tissue repair, and assists with cell division that then replaces old or malfunctioning cells. Based on research, as much as 75% of HGH is produced and released by our body while we are sleeping. In our deepest sleep state, the quantity of growth hormone released into our bloodstream is increased due to the action of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH). GHRH is released to assist us to doze off to sleep so that our body can repair tissue, conserve energy, store sugars, and boost your immune system.
So clearly, without a decent sleep, our body’s ability to produce this hormone that is essential in recovery and repair is hindered and these vital restorative functions won’t happen! Ensure that you get enough sleep daily so you can reach your full fitness potential during your training.
Tips for better Zzzzzzzzz’s…
- Ensure you switch off all your electronic devices at least 1-2 hours before going to bed to refrain from doing any stress-inducing triggers such as checking work emails, text messages, social media, etc., before going to bed.
- Practice an evening ritual of relaxed breathing to begin winding down from your day.
- Eat a few hours before bedtime. Do not over-eat as this will cause discomfort and your body will be too busy trying to digest your food instead of repairing and restoring your body as you sleep!
- Create a comfortable, sleep-inducing environment (draw curtains to shut out outside light, close door and windows to reduce outside noise, adjust the room temperature, etc.).
- Be consistent with your sleeping and waking up schedules to keep your body clock regular.
- Do not take caffeine or sugar at night. These are stimulants and will definitely keep you awake.
- Exercise really does promote good sleep, when you train regularly. However, it can often interfere with sleep if you train too late in the day. Train first thing in the morning or immediately after work to avoid disrupting your sleep.
If you train regularly, sleep is one of the key components that will help you push an extra 10 or 20 pounds the next time you bench press or squat. So it is vital that you create and practice a healthy sleeping pattern into an overall fitness-oriented lifestyle. However, I know that sometimes even with the best of intentions of creating sleeping bliss, it still won’t work due to daily life stresses and demands – work, kids, LIFE! Start with a fitness plan that works for you, combine it with a well-balanced nutritional plan, and then incorporate my tips above in your daily habits to ensure that you will drift off into lalaland and remain there until morning, at least 90% of the time. All of these combined will improve your well-being, health, and overall fitness potential.
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