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Sleep and Fitness: The dynamic duo:

Most of us who are committed to our workouts work really hard at maintaining our plan and schedule. We laboriously scrutinize our workouts or miles and plan what we can do to get the most effectiveness out of our fitness.

But what part of the plan do most of us neglect?
✔ Workout days – Check
✔ Nutrition Plan – Check
✔ Hydration – (Mostly) Check
❌ Sleep – Oops!

Sleeping is something we all have to do. And it is an essential part of your fitness plan. Without adequate sleep, you could be throwing all your fitness gains out the window.
I’ve been struggling with this myself then I came across this really good article by health journalist Krista Stevens (1) and have adapted it to share with you.

Sleep Debt is Real

What is sleep debt you ask? Sleep debt is the term that refers to the amount of sleep someone needs and the amount that they receive.
For example, if your body needs nine hours of sleep, but you only receive 7 hours, you have two hours of sleep debt.

Sleep debt is cumulative, which means that it increases and grows larger. If you are constantly missing your sleeping goal, you are racking up sleep debt.
This does not necessarily mean that you are going to feel tired. Many individuals deal with chronic sleep restriction. Chronic sleep restriction refers to when you don’t feel tired or sleepy, but you have a decrease in physical and mental performance. The amount of sleep someone needs differs due to a variety of factors, including but not limited to activity level and age.

Recovering from sleep debt is often challenging. Taking a nap is often the first action we take when we didn’t get a full night’s sleep. Naps can help with the feeling of tiredness, and they can also help with working memory, learning and mental sharpness for a few hours.
However, naps are not sufficient enough for long-term sleep debt, so you must try to hit the required hours of sleep needed for optimal health. Many people do not realize how sleep, or lack thereof, can truly affect our daily lives.

Some of the Affects of Sleep Debt

Here are some important things to know about sleep and how it affects every aspect of our lives. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble focusing
  • Feeling drowsy
  • Weight gain.

Besides the physical symptoms, lack of sleep can also affect a plethora of activities in our life such as our work, school and driving.

Not only that, research has shown that sleep debt can lead to an increased risk of

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension and stroke
  • Sleep Debt and Your Fitness

Sleep affects our exercise recovery and even our metabolism. It is crucial that our bodies receive at least 7 hours of sleep, especially if you live an active lifestyle. During sleep, our bodies begin to recover. Sleep enhances muscle recovery through protein synthesis and human growth hormone release.
If you are in Sleep Debt,, your body is not able to carry out these functions properly, which can cause a whirlwind of problems, and increase your chances of injury, limit your strength gains and inhibit proper muscle growth..

Lack of sleep can also affect our metabolism. Our metabolism is what converts our food into energy, and when this is affected, it can cause our bodies to not function correctly. Research(2) has shown that when our bodies are not receiving the right amount of sleep, our bodies will be less likely to expend fat as energy and more likely to store it when we do not get enough rest daily.
If we are not getting the proper sleep and recovery, all that hard work won’t translate into toned muscle but gaining and holding onto those pesky fat stores.

Dog SleepingHow many hours should you be sleeping?

Most adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep. Finally, once you reach the age of 65 and older, the number of hours you need drops slightly. Adults 65 and over require 7-8 hours of sleep a night for optimal function.


5 Tips on getting better sleep

If you are trying to catch up on sleep after accumulating sleep debt, here are a few ways you can start to get back on track.

1: Be consistent

Consistency is key to anything you want to achieve in life, especially when it comes to hitting your sleeping goals.
You can become more consistent by going to bed at the same time every night and setting your alarm for the same time every morning. This even includes the weekends. Having a schedule helps you stay on track, and make time for sleep!

2: Give it time

Getting out of sleep debt can take up to four days. Increase your sleep daily, even if it is 15-30 minutes extra a day. You will eventually get back on track and get out of your sleep debt.

3: Make your bedroom a space where you are comfortable and stress-free.

You can do this by turning off the lights, keeping it at a comfortable temperature, and not using electronics in bed. (Susan and I just purchased blackout curtains for our bedroom. The best $24.00 Amazon purchase ever!)
People often stay up later using our electronics, which leads to sleep debt.

4: Have a nighttime routine.

I find this to be the most important keys to getting enough sleep. After all, you know when you are going to work, workout, eat, etc. That same discipline will get you out of sleep debt and into active recovery – sleep! Avoid bright lights, electronics, caffeine and alcohol before bed.

5: Get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day to achieve optimal health.

But try to get this in at least 5 hours before bed. This can help you feel more tired and ready for rest.

Overall, sleep is vital for every aspect of our health. It affects all parts of our life, and if you are not receiving enough of it, that can lead to a decrease in all of our functions.
If you or somebody you know is struggling with sleep, try these tips!

Chronic sleep deprivation or insomnia can be a symptom of other health issues, so always consult a doctor if you believe your symptoms are worsening, or not getting better.

Now, get some rest!

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Author John

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