If someone asks you, how can I live a healthier life?–typical replies will discuss exercise and diet. But what about sleep?
Sleep is often a forgotten and underrated necessity of our lives, despite taking up such a large part of it.
Sleep affects everything from our ability to concentrate, our energy levels, and how we recover from an intense workout.
Yet, despite this, we often compromise it for social activities or social media.
By prioritizing a great night’s sleep, you can maximize the effort you put into your workout as your motivation, energy and endurance levels will increase.
Plus, your physical appearance and strength post-exercise shall improve as your body uses sleep and the growth hormone, somatotropin, as a vital tool to repair, grow and strengthen your muscles.
For the science and details behind why a good night’s sleep is necessary on a routine basis for a great workout and advice on how to foster a great night’s sleep, the answers are below.
A Sleep-Deprived Country
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report on morbidity and mortality in the US, 1 in 3 adults is not getting enough sleep.
The sleep health organization has defined a few reasons why this might be, such as a lack of knowledge over how much sleep is necessary, or a demanding lifestyle with commitments and priorities, such as working at night and looking after young children.
Another factor to take into consideration is artificial lighting, from city lights to the glow you’re exposed to at night from your mobile devices.
Being exposed to blue light in particular, which is found in LED lighting, hinders our body’s natural ability to produce the hormone melatonin that helps us to fall asleep. It disrupts our bodies by mimicking the sun, so that our minds act as if it is daytime.
The Importance of Sleep
The chief of sleep medicine, Dr. Phyllis Zee, at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explained: “Sleep is a pillar of health.”
You must gain the recommended sleep for your age to ensure your body functions properly, such as regulating your weight and maintaining your brain.
If, however, you are sleep-deprived or endure poor quality sleep, you could be susceptible to health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and memory difficulties.
The hours of sleep you need vary depending on your age;
- Children (6-13): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
- Younger adults (18-64): 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours
Furthermore, for those who exercise, extra sleep is advised to aid your body’s recovery after a strenuous workout.
By acquiring the rest that’s necessary for your age, and extending your snooze, you shall experience the following positive outcomes from your workout sessions:
- Your muscle recovery shall increase.
- You’ll feel more motivated to stick to your exercise workout.
- You’ll possess the motivation and strength to complete your workout to its full capacity.
- Your mind and body shall function better as a whole.
However, a person committed to routine exercise while sleep deprived can expect:
- Their endurance levels to decrease.
- Their muscles are unlikely to heal properly and may be prone to soreness.
- To be more likely to incur an injury.
Healthy Foods to Promote Good Sleep
You might have heard that it is not good to eat at night, but that is not always true. While you will not want to have a full meal of spicy tamales right before hitting the sack, there are actually some foods that can promote a healthy night of sleep for you.
The key is to know what those foods are and then to have them handy to eat when you are hungry. When those hunger pains do come, you are going to eat something.
It is better to eat something that will help you to sleep well as opposed to keeping you up for hours.
Walnuts and Almonds
While most nuts are actually good for you in one way or the other, walnuts and almonds are what you will want to reach for at night. Walnuts have a great deal of tryptophan. This is an amino acid that helps to promote sleep. For their part, almonds have magnesium. This is a mineral that we know is necessary in order for us to sleep well at night.
Cheese and Crackers
If you crave something crunchy, crackers are a good choice. Add some cheese and you will sleep better at night. This is because cheese is dairy, and that is known to make you sleepy. The calcium found in the cheese will help you manufacture melatonin, which is the natural substance that helps you to fall and stay asleep.
If you are going to eat a meal at night, make sure it contains a salad. The lettuce in that salad will have lactucarium. This is a natural sedative that works on the brain to promote sleepiness. You can also try something different and boil the cabbage in a cup of water. Do that for 15 minutes, add in some mint, and then drink it just before bed.
Pretzels are crunchy and will satisfy your nighttime food cravings. They also have a high glycemic index. This means that your blood sugar will spike after eating a handful. This will actually decrease the amount of time that you will need to fall asleep. That makes pretzels a good choice to eat and sleep well.
Tuna contains a great deal of vitamin B6. This is a key component that is required to make both melatonin and serotonin. Both of these will help you to sleep better at night. Other fish items you can eat at night include halibut and salmon.
Cherries are always a healthy alternative to eat at any time, day or night. When you are getting ready for bed, you might want to reach for a glass of cherry juice. This helps to increase the level of melatonin in your body, making bedtime even more welcome.
Lifestyle Changes to Promote Good Sleep
For a quality night’s sleep, your room and bed need to be a comfortable temperature, which, according to Savvy Sleeper, is achievable with memory foam mattresses that have cooling technologies.
Furthermore, the room must be dark to stimulate your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is an internal biological clock that regulates when you wake up and sleep in response to daylight and night time.
The absence of light shall empower the release of melatonin, a hormone that enables your body to drift off into a deep slumber, thus blackout blinds and turning off devices and lighting when you’re trying to sleep are vital.
In addition, going to bed at a reasonable set time each night shall allow you to accommodate a restful night’s sleep, and exercising will help you to attain a better rest too. But we’ll discuss how and why further down the article.
The Growth Hormone
Once you’ve felt the burn in the gym, jogging around the neighborhood, or committing to your routine morning squat workout, your sleep that night is an essential component for facilitating your body’s recovery post-workout.
While snoozing, your body shall repair and build lean muscle tissue with the assistance of the growth hormone. Experts estimate the output of the growth hormone increases by 75% at night. However, sacrificing sleep shall result in a severe drop in this essential hormone, which shall impair your body’s recovery.
Sleep Increases Athletic Performance
To further support the concept that rest is a critical aspect of your workout, a study conducted by Stanford University, Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance, proved an increase in physical performance.
The experiment was conducted on a varsity basketball team which instructed the 11 players to extend their sleep by 2 hours each night over several months. Following the study, the results demonstrated the men’s speed increased by 5%, and their free-throws were 9% more accurate than before the experiment.
With the added benefit of an increase in reflex time and a boost in their happiness too. Moreover, other studies conducted on different athletes and football players returned similar positive results on the power a sufficient amount of sleep can have on the mind and body.
Exercise is an Important Part of your Sleep
Having touched on the benefits of what quality sleep can do for your exercise sessions, this section focuses on what working out can do for your sleep.
For instance, exercising increases the secretion of the hormone adenosine, which is essential for making you feel sleepy at bedtime.
The journal Sleep Medicine further supports exercise as a natural sleep stimulant. A study showed that a group of individuals who usually slept less than 6.5 hours a week, but who committed themselves to moderate-intensity exercises, such as walking or running four times a week for a period of six weeks began to experience longer sleep.
In the study, each individual’s sleep increased by 75 minutes per evening, which, according to the study’s authors, is more than any drug has helped to do.
However, be mindful of when you decide to exercise during the day, as this can affect your sleep pattern. For example, the September 2014 issue of the European Journal of Applied Physiology determined that if you are going to exercise close to bedtime, low-intensity workouts such as yoga and pilates are better suited. High-intensity workouts delay the onset of sleep, which is said to be caused by an increased heart rate.
Dedicate time to sleeping for a better workout! Sleep may be an untapped resource currently lacking from your existing workout routine. It is a support that could give your body what it needs to recover, grow stronger, and build stamina. However, one or two nights of great sleep won’t achieve much.
There needs to be a consistent effort from you to head to bed at a routine time to work in sync with your circadian rhythm. Exercise and sleep are essential for a healthy lifestyle, but, as the advice often goes, you also need to incorporate a nutritional diet and plenty of water for optimum results from your workout too.
Those are two powerful components that you need in your life. Sleep is necessary for longevity. You will feel better throughout the day and have more energy as a result. Healthy foods will also support the healthy diet you are trying to consume, so it is a winning situation all around.