Health and Fitness - Sleep

Health and Fitness: How important is sleep for you?

Health and fitness and more specifically sleep is one of the most vital cornerstones for living a physically and mentally healthy life.

For those with busy lives, it can be challenging to balance everything that needs to be done. But unfortunately, sleep, exercise, and diet are all essential to our health and well-being, and you cannot reasonably sacrifice one for the other.

The good news is that each tends to play into the other. So, if you exercise more and eat better, you are more likely to sleep more deeply. Likewise, if you sleep more, you are more likely to feel refreshed and maintain a regular exercise and diet plan.


Why is sleep important for your health and fitness?

Good sleep can improve your mood, brain performance, and overall health. Did you know that lack of sleep reduces the risk of multiple diseases, including diabetes 2 and heart disease?

Sleeps impact on diet

Individuals who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to eat more than they need. So, as well as being at higher risk of diseases like diabetes and obesity, those who are sleep deprived are more likely to crave higher-calorie foods and overeat.

So, even with the best will in the world, people tend to find sticking to a healthy diet more challenging when they are not getting the sleep they need.

Sleep’s role in Health and fitness

One of the reasons you might not see results from working out is that you aren’t getting enough sleep. Experts have found that our body recovers faster during sleep and that regular sleeping can provide us with the energy needed to complete workouts. Those who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be less physically active and feel less physically strong.

Add to this the effect that sleep has on our brains, and those who aren’t sleeping well are less likely to be able to focus and, therefore, more prone to injuries while exercising.


What makes a good night’s sleep?

Most experts recommend that adults sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night. Those who regularly sleep for less than 7 hours nightly may experience tiredness, an increased risk of various health conditions, lack of motivation, reduced results from exercise, and more cravings.

It’s important to note that the amount of sleep we need changes throughout our lives. For example, babies require more sleep than school-aged children, who need more than teens and adults. However, once you reach adulthood, the amount of sleep needed remains pretty much the same, with a minimum of 7 hours being required for a healthy lifestyle.

The idea that we can make up for lost sleep is also a myth. While you can catch up on it within the next few nights, you cannot make up for a week of little sleep over the weekend. Instead, you should ideally be trying to get at least 7 hours of sleep regularly.

But it’s not just about the number of hours you sleep. Sleep quality is just as important as sleep quantity. Lower quality of sleep usually means that we are not following our body’s natural circadian rhythm and may not be entering the periods of deep sleep required for our body and mind to rest and recover.

Research suggests that humans have an internal body clock. This clock regulates our sleep and controls when we feel tired and alert. Known as the circadian rhythm, the clock operates on a 24-hour cycle and can be affected by things such as light, diet, and exercise. Thus, doing a workout outside could help your brain determine the time of day, allowing it to release melatonin (a hormone found to induce drowsiness) when the natural light draws in during the evening.


How can you improve your sleep habits?

It can be frustrating to hear about how important sleep is when you struggle to sleep. Luckily, there are things you can do to improve your sleep.

Sleep and fitness

Sleep in coordination with health and fitness are essential parts of healthy living. Beyond sleep, rest is also important for your body. Both rest and sleep allow our body time to recover and repair, meaning we get better results from workouts.

Interestingly, it also works the other way around. Regular exercise is a crucial component in healthy living and improving sleep. Sleep expert Chalene Gamaldo, M.D., suggests that moderate aerobic exercise can increase the amount of slow wave (deep) sleep we get. This slow-wave sleep is essential and helps us feel alert and refreshed when we wake up the next day.

Engaging in physical activity during the day can help people to sleep. However, you shouldn’t exercise just before bed as these increases stress hormone levels, making sleep more difficult. The ideal time to squeeze in a workout is in the late afternoon or early evening.

Sleep and diet

Just as a lack of sleep can cause our bodies to crave more and unhealthier foods, our diet can also affect our sleep.

Two critical pieces of advice are:

  1. Eat a few hours before bed, as this will give your body time to digest and be in the optimum state for sleeping.
  2. Don’t consume caffeine, particularly in the hours leading up to your bedtime. The less caffeine you drink, the better sleep you are likely to achieve. If you can’t cut caffeine out completely, try limiting consumption to early in the day, preferably before lunch.

Prioritizing sleep for your health and Fitness

Doing everything you should for a healthy and happy life can be challenging. There are also times, for instance, after the birth of a child or during a particularly stressful period at work, when you might find yourself unable to get the amount or quality of sleep you desire. However, it is vital that you prioritize getting at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep when possible.

Sleep impacts our health in the short and long term. Short term, you are more likely to have the energy needed for exercise, crave the right foods, and see better overall results from your fitness efforts. Long term, you reduce your risk of many health conditions and diseases.

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