Adequate sleep is an essential element of fitness - its significance is frequently underestimated. While the inclination is to intensify workouts and extend gym sessions in the pursuit of strength and fitness, it's crucial to recognise that high-quality rest plays a vital role in your overall health and well-being. Following good sleep habits is the key to reducing the risk of diseases and maintaining optimal physical and mental health.
Continue reading to understand why prioritising quality sleep is essential for your fitness journey.
How Sleep Helps in Fitness
1. Exercise: Boosts Energy and performance
The amount of sleep required varies based on your activity level. A sedentary lifestyle may need less sleep than an active one, where your body craves adequate rest. Optimal rest translates to peak performance, enabling more vigorous gym sessions or workouts with reduced fatigue.
Several studies indicate that sufficient sleep can improve fine motor skills, reaction time, muscular power, endurance, and problem-solving abilities. Insufficient sleep can adversely impact energy levels, mood, and cognitive function, influencing athletic performance. So, the amount of resting hours is directly proportional to the performance of an individual.
2. Helps Maintain Weight
Maintaining or losing weight is a common goal for many individuals, whether short or long-term. Research indicates that those consistently sleeping fewer than six hours per night are more prone to weight gain than those averaging seven hours or more. Sleep plays a crucial role in regulating hormones that control appetite, glucose processing, and energy metabolism, making it a weight-regulating factor. Poor sleep is associated with elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone linked to weight gain and potential increases in blood pressure.
Moreover, inadequate sleep raises insulin secretion, impacting glucose metabolism within even a day or two. Higher insulin levels are linked to weight gain and an elevated risk of diabetes. Poor sleep also reduces levels of leptin, a hormone signalling satiety, while increasing those of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. Consequently, insufficient sleep may trigger food cravings even after consuming sufficient calories. Fatigue can lead to unconscious choices of unhealthy snacks as a quick energy fix.
3. Lowers Risk of Injury
Exercising in a fatigued state increases the risk of injury, as both the body and mind undergo changes during sleep deprivation. Quality sleep plays a crucial role in sports performance and overall well-being. During sleep, the body undergoes essential repair and regeneration, aiding in the recovery of muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and growth plates, thereby helping to prevent overuse injuries. Additionally, sufficient sleep contributes to improved reaction time, a vital aspect in many sports. Slower reaction times can increase the likelihood of injury as athletes find it challenging to make timely adjustments. Recent research suggests a connection between chronic suboptimal sleep and an elevated risk of musculoskeletal pain and sports injuries. While this evidence highlights the impact of certain sleep behaviours on injury risk, it's important to view sleep as just one component of an athlete's overall health and well-being when evaluating the potential for injuries.
4. Promotes a Robust Immune System
Sleep plays a vital role in the body's repair, regeneration, and recovery processes, with the immune system benefiting from this relationship. Some studies propose that deep sleep is essential for the body to undergo repairs and fortify the immune system. Nevertheless, further research is required to delve into the precise mechanisms through which sleep impacts the body's immune system.
Some evidence suggests that adequate sleep may enhance the body's antibody responses to influenza vaccines.
5. Boosts Heart Health
Diminished sleep quality and duration may elevate the risk of developing heart disease. A comprehensive analysis of 19 studies revealed that sleeping less than 7 hours per day was associated with a 13% increased risk of death from heart disease. Furthermore, another analysis revealed each 1-hour reduction in sleep compared to the optimal 7 hours was linked to a 6% heightened risk of all-cause mortality and heart disease. Short sleep duration also appears to raise the likelihood of high blood pressure, particularly in individuals with obstructive sleep apnea — a condition marked by interrupted breathing during sleep. Therefore, it is advisable to follow the appropriate sleep routine.
6. Promotes Muscle Recovery and Growth
Sleep is when the body undergoes repair and regeneration of tissues, notably muscle tissue. In the stages of deep sleep, the body releases growth hormone, a key factor in stimulating muscle growth and facilitating repair. Insufficient quality sleep can compromise this crucial process, potentially hindering muscle recovery and growth, which may result in diminished athletic performance and an elevated risk of injury.
7. Works Against Depression
The correlation between sleep and mental health has long been the focus of research. A 2016 meta-analysis published in the journal BMC Psychiatry established a substantial association between insomnia and an elevated risk of depression. The analysis proposes that sleep deprivation might induce cognitive changes that contribute to the risk of developing depression. Additionally, disturbances in sleep can compromise emotional regulation and stability, as well as disrupt neural processes, potentially contributing to the manifestation of depression symptoms. Irregular sleep patterns are closely tied to depression, especially among individuals with sleep disorders.
8. Sleep Quality Impacts Emotions and Social Interactions
Lack of sleep diminishes your capacity to regulate emotions and engage in social interactions effectively. Fatigue makes it challenging to control emotional outbursts and behave appropriately in social situations. It can also impair our responsiveness to humour and our ability to express empathy.
Prioritising adequate sleep can be a crucial in enhancing your relationships and social interactions.
Ideal Sleep Time for Different Age Groups
The Recommended amount of sleep
Newborns (younger than 4 months)
16 hours (Sleep patterns vary)
Babies (4 months to 1 year old)
12 to 16 hours per day
1 to 2 years old
11 to 14 hours per day
3 to 5 years old
10 to 13 hours per day
6 to 12 years
9 to 12 hours per day
13 to 18 years
8 to 10 hours per day
7 or more hours a night
Sleep for Health: Tips to Consider to Sleep Well
1. Maintain a regular sleep routine:
Aim to go to bed and wake up at consistent times each day, including weekends. This practice helps regulate the body's internal clock and enhances the overall quality of sleep.
2. Establish a soothing bedtime ritual:
Formulate a routine before bedtime to signal the body that it's time to sleep, which may involve activities like reading, enjoying a warm bath, or engaging in meditation or deep breathing exercises, which may facilitate quicker and more effective sleep onset. Refrain from consuming caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in the hours preceding bedtime.
3. Make a cosy sleep environment:
Minimise exposure to light at night - strive to block out as much light as possible; maintain a comfortably cool room temperature, avoiding extremes of heat or cold, which can disrupt sleep quality.
Incorporate regular physical activity: It is important to include some physical activity in your daily routine. Research indicates that exercise positively impacts sleep quality, so aim to do some form of physical activity or exercise during the day.
4. Restrict screen usage before bedtime:
The blue light emitted from electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and TV can disrupt sleep by suppressing the production of melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone. Aim to minimise screen time for at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
Sleep is a crucial yet frequently overlooked element of overall health and well-being for every individual. Its significance lies in allowing the body to undergo necessary repairs, ensuring fitness, and preparing for the challenges of the upcoming day. Sufficient rest not only contributes to physical fitness but may also serve as a preventive measure against excessive weight gain, heart disease, and prolonged illness.
When striving to enhance your fitness, prioritise sufficient, high-quality sleep - target a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep each night.