The Importance of Sleep to Your Fitness Routine
The importance of sleep, as it turns out, really cannot be overstated. To find out how people really sleep, and how it really affects their everyday fitness routine, we asked three of our guest blogging badasses to offer their opinions. While they varied in the specifics, one thing is abundantly clear: the right amount of sleep is crucial for your body to perform at maximum capacity. Meal management systems get you through the day; sleep gets you through the night.
The Science Behind Sleep
Before we delve into the real-world sleep insights from our fitness freaks, a quick breakdown of the science behind sleep. We all know that sleep recharges us, but we may not know exactly how this happens. The main fact about sleep is that it comes in two forms: REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM. For most of the night, you're in the latter stage, working toward REM sleep roughly every 90 minutes. The later stages of sleep are when recovery occurs, but you only make it to the end if you cycle through all the stages properly. Wake up during the first stage, and you lose what you had. This is why quality is just as valuable, if not more, than quantity.
When you're sleeping is when most of your growth hormone is produced, the benefits of which include stronger biceps, increased calcium retention and fat loss, and reduced fat storage. The importance of sleep relates to hunger as well, since the body evens out two of the hormones that control hunger - ghrelin and leptin during sleep. One study showed a correlation between less sleep and higher levels of ghrelin, which induces hunger. In other words, not getting enough sleep can actually make you fat. And we still haven't mentioned all the benefits of an adequate sleep schedule, because scientists are learning more about them every day.
Fun Fact: Sleeping less than usual? Take a 90-minute nap the day after not getting enough sleep, and it could lead to more REM sleep during that nap.
6 Pack Sleep Q & A
Scientifically speaking, the importance of sleep is quite evident. But in the real world, it can be easy to succumb to an inconsistent sleep schedule, especially if you're as busy traveling fit as we suspect you are. That's why we asked Jaime Filer, Tiffany Gaston, and Leah Berti, three of the most fit ladies we know, for some of their experiences with sleep, energy, and the Goldilocks Theory (aka, getting just the right amount).
1. Does sleep deprivation noticeably affect your workout? What were some of the effects on your workout?
2. If you don't get a good night's sleep, do you have any tips for increasing energy the next day?
3. Have you ever had difficulty in the past with getting enough sleep to fuel your workout/fitness routine? How have you dealt with it?
4. Thoughts on amount of hours needed for optimal performance?
5. How do you feel about sleep trackers?
6. Any parting words?
Pro Tip: If you have a hard time falling asleep, consider getting blackout curtains. This is especially helpful if you live in an active city where the hustle and bustle continues all night long.
Everyone knows the value of a good cup of highly caffeinated coffee to wake up, but what else can you do to help yourself fall asleep?
You can absorb magnesium through the skin, so rub some topical magnesium lotion or oil on your legs before bedtime. In this way, the digestive system is bypassed, and many people are often ready to fall asleep within half an hour. Try Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion, which is formulated for even the most sensitive people.
This hormone helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle and is often used to treat insomnia. Just don't mistake melatonin for a sleeping pill. It will not put you to sleep. What it will do is signal to your body that evening is coming, so your body starts preparing for sleep. Use melatonin to help yourself adjust to a routine rather than relying on it as a sleep aid. It's readily available in pill or tablet form, such as this Nature's Bounty variety, at most local pharmacies or health food stores.
It may seem so obvious that you completely overlook it, but the right mattress can do wonders for your sleep. Consider the softness (or firmness) of your mattress. If you suffer from back pain, a soft mattress is likely to make things worse.
4. Manner of Sleep.
By this, we mean position. There are no hard and fast rules on the best overall position, probably because what's most important is sleeping in a way that feels natural for your body. Many people also shift position through the night, and that's fine too. Jaime told us, â€œI'm a stomach sleeper. But I tend to make myself into a rotisserie, and rotate positions pretty much all night." For what it's worth, WebMD reports that 63% of Americans sleep on their side, with 14% on their back, and 16% on their stomach.
Always Remember: Never oversleep. It's easy to think that sleeping an extra hour or two next time you go to bed will set you straight. The truth of the matter is that you just can't catch up on sleep. Once it's gone, it's gone, and the cycle starts anew. Sleeping too much can mess with your natural patterns, so stay away from this bad, bad habit.
We've said it a thousand times, and we'll say it a thousand more: a healthy body needs a healthy sleep schedule. But you didn't have to take just our word on the importance of sleep; we're backed by our fabulous guest bloggers Jaime Filer, Leah Berti, and Tiffany Gaston. Whether inspired to make a point to shut off the electronics like Tiffany and Jaime or pack your gym bag or gym backpack before bed to relax like Leah, we hope you now know more than ever about the importance of sleep. Is there something we missed? Leave us a comment below or tweet @6PackFitness!
Leah's photos courtesy of her Facebook.