To improve your performance – or to just stay fit – you need several essential pieces in the puzzle of ultimate fitness:
- Specific, attainable and measurable fitness goals
- Countless days and hours of workouts
- Workout variety
- An optimally planned/ structured workout schedule
- Technology to monitor your progress
- The right nutrition
But, the effectiveness of all of these depends on one key piece: a good night’s sleep.
When you’re well rested, your muscles and heart wake up ready to take on another workout and your hormones have you at an even keel. You might not even get frustrated when someone is bigger, faster, or stronger than you.. you’ll just keep putting in the work to reach your true potential (maybe even with a smile on your face).
Benefits Of Sleep
Sleep is the time when most of your body’s chemical and physiological renewal processes take place – with many of those processes taking place in the muscles you beat up during your workout.
Exercise depletes muscles of many nutrients, breaks down muscle tissue (micro trauma), leaving them in a vulnerable state. Even if you’re not active after your workout, your muscles are still working when you walk, sit and stand. Although these activities don’t seem like much, your muscles think differently.
Sleep is the only time your muscles can fully recover, and if you want those gains in strength, quicker running times, and a better-looking body, you’ll spend more time counting sheep than counting reps.
When you sleep well, your heart beats less and your blood pressure falls. This means less wear and tear on your heart and arteries.
If you don’t sleep enough or the quality of your sleep is poor, you’ll typically have a higher heart rate than usual and possibly higher blood pressure in the daytime.
The hormone producing factory in your body, the endocrine system, releases hormones into your circulatory system according to what, when, and how much you need. It’s during high-quality sleep that your hormones are in peak working and efficient order and are being delivered to all parts of your body to replenish them for the next day’s work.
Quality sleep promotes the production of the growth hormone, which is primarily responsible for muscle growth and helps your body to fully recover and perform at an optimal level. Sleep also reduces or helps to maintain the usual level of cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone.
Without making it too complicated, your hormones regulate or largely affect every single function in your body and sleep is key in making sure your hormones don’t get way out of whack and everything functions as it should.
Negative Effects Of Inadequate Sleep
To understand how powerful sleep really is, let’s take a closer look at the specific areas of performance that inadequate sleep may disturb.
Lack of deep sleep decreases glycogen storage and without fuel in the tank, athletes run on reserves, which can cause many negative effects, including testosterone reduction, human growth hormone reduction, increased energy expenditure, reduction in muscle memory, and increased inflammation.
Reaction Time And Accuracy
Hundreds of studies show that decreased quality and quantity of sleep cause an increase in reaction time. Not what you want when you’re out on a training ride and a squirrel – or a car – darts out in front of you. Weakened hand/eye coordination has also been directly linked to sleep deprivation.
Studies show that sleep deprived individuals will know the risks of their decisions, but will not care what those risks are, and may take risks unnecessarily.
During all stages of sleep, the mind and brain are working to process new memories, consolidating them into long-term storage and integrating recently acquired information with past experience. In other words, you need sleep in order to boost your brain activity.
Sleep deprivation, sleep disturbance, and circadian rhythm disturbance all affect the overall restorative aspects of sleep, which may prevent or slow down your recovery from exercise and stress.
Most people can recover fairly quickly after one night of poor sleep but when you string two or more together, the compounding effects show up in our mood. This disposition can be short-lived, but when a lack of sleep becomes the norm, a person’s bad mood can become chronic.
The old saying, “Where the head goes, the body follows” holds true. The longer your thoughts and mood stay negative, the less active you’ll become, workouts will be missed, a once healthy diet gets replaced with drive-up windows, and projects and productivity can get bogged in the mud. On the other hand, the lack of routines and healthy habits may further impair sleep quality, which can lead to getting stuck in a vicious circle.
Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs sleep, too, to have a break, recover from the normal stress of life, and feel free to do what it wants for a change.