Sleep is essential not only for our health and general well-being, but also for our fitness and performance. But, if you’re not sleeping (well) enough how to sleep better and make sure you get enough of premium quality shut-eye?
Here sports scientist Benjamin Garcia shares his insight on how to sleep better to get (or stay) fit.
WHy sleep Is Key?
Periods of rest are important for a whole host of reasons, but from a purely restorative point of view sleep provides an opportunity for the brain and body to repair and rejuvenate.
Why we sleep at night?As a general rule, it’s colder at night so humans have evolved to sleep at this time, as staying warm if awake would require a higher energy expenditure. Coupled with this, core body temperature is lowest at night and so heat loss is minimized by sleeping through the night.
As a predatory animal, humans have been afforded the luxury of unbroken sleep for extended periods at night.
While there is still a lot we don’t understand about sleep, what we do know is that getting a good night’s sleep has a wide range of benefits, including
- supporting mental wellbeing
- protecting the immune system
- reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes
- helping with weight management and even
- improving sex drive and the probability of conceiving.
Conversely a long-term lack of sleep (months or years) may lead to depression and anxiety, depression of the immune system and developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
What About Sleep And Exercise – What’s The Connection?
Getting enough of good quality sleep plays a significant role in recovery after exercise and, therefore, can have a big impact on sports performance. To understand this area in more detail scientists have used a number of different techniques to discover how the body responds to sleep, or lack thereof.
Various different sports and elements of performance have been researched. For example, Fullagar and colleagues (2015) looked at many studies that examined the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance.
Many studies found that sleep loss has negative effects on sport performance while some studies found no effect. It seems that one bad night sleep doesn’t necessarily cause a significant decrement in performance but getting less than the optimal amount of sleep in the long-term most likely affects sport performance and recovery.
One bad night sleep doesn’t necessarily affect performance significantly, but long-term sleep deprivation will likely deteriorate performance and recovery.
In additional research, athletes who increased the length of their sleep improved sprint running time, improved mood, increased vigour and decreased fatigue (Mah et al, 2011).
In other words, athletes who were able to increase hours of sleep demonstrated significant improvements in performance.
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
As a guideline, waking up tired and wishing for an opportunity to sleep during the day are warning signs that you’re probably not getting enough quality sleep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults should sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being.
As is often the case, a one size fits all approach simply doesn’t work and so it’s important to learn what works best for you. The majority of adults require approximately 8 hours of good-quality sleep per night to operate effectively.
Using wearable technology with sleep tracking can help you pinpoint what exactly is affecting your sleep negatively and start fixing your sleep habits.
How To sleep Better And Get Fitter
It’s estimated that approximately a third of the adult population in both the UK and US don’t achieve an adequate amount of sleep, so what can be done to improve the quality and quantity of sleep?
Incorporate the below tips and techniques to ensure you get a great night sleep and wake up feeling revitalised to take on the day.
Tips on how to sleep better
- Establish (and stick to) a bedtime routine that gives your body the best possible chance of enjoying a good night’s sleep – and this starts before going to bed.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and eating large amounts of food in the hours before going to bed. Try not to drink too much of anything (even water) before going to sleep to limit the chance of having to get up to go to the bathroom during the night.
- Create a bedroom environment that encourages good sleep – a cool, dark, quiet room. If traveling, ear plugs and eye masks can help to replicate these home conditions while on the road.
- Avoid using phones, tablets, and computers and watching television in bed. In fact any gadget that emits white or blue light is a no-no because it interferes with the release of melatonin – the hormone that signals your brain that it’s time to sleep.
Whether it’s performing well at work, at a weekend race, or simply feeling ready and energized to take on the day, prioritize getting a good night’s sleep.
The benefits to your health and well-being are vast and recovering from your workouts and preparing for your next fitness session will also be significantly boosted by premium quality and optimal quantity of sleep.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.