Today I was reminded of the importance of both getting enough sleep and just how much quality of sleep matters. I had a friend swing by soon after midday who came to vent (among other reasons) about his lack of progress and motivation with losing weight and building muscle – something I’m sure we’ve all felt (and heard) before.
When I was a teenager this was something I struggled with particularly. Like most teenagers I stayed up late, sacrificing precious sleep I needed. Years after I finished high school I too had been hitting roadblocks with my health goals. That’s when I finally started to pay careful attention to how much sleep I was getting and making sure it was good sleep too. Since then I’ve continued to read up on how sleep affects exercise and muscle growth – especially now it’s professionally relevant to me.
One of the first things I always go over with new clients nowadays is making sure their foundations in their life are strong before they try taking on any new workouts or dieting. Making sure things like sleep aren’t an issue, making sure they’re eating consistent meals throughout the day (not perpetually snacking) all in an effort to make sure there’s nothing in the way of progress once they start working out or doing regular cardio.
The Basics of Good Sleep
As everyone knows good sleep is important to keep your head straight – people that don’t enough sleep can’t think as well at work, they’re moodier and they can’t remember anywhere near what they should. (Fun fact: As one becomes more sleep deprived one begins to perform as if they were drunk in all the worst ways possible.) Not to mention that one’s sex life tends to suffer quite majorly if someone isn’t sleeping properly.
It’s also worth giving a mention to what it decreases your risk of, namely: heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity. However one has to keep consistent with sleeping well to reap those benefits as many diseases as years forming. In addition to the aforementioned benefits with decreased disease risk, sleep also helps hugely to keep your immune system strong. In turn this means you’ll be sick less and sick for less long when you do fall ill.
For Fitness-nuts like me
Beyond the basic benefits sleep brings to everyone it’s also hugely beneficial to those of us obsessed with body building or marathon running. This is the stuff I find most exciting and interesting. If you’re looking to lose weight, getting good sleep is a must. As noted in a Annals of Internal Medicine study those who got less than seven hours of sleep per night greatly reduced and undid the benefits of their diets. When the participants were sleep deprived the study found participants were considerably more hungry (i.e. they’d end up eating more) and less energized after eating. In conclusion they found those who slept better received up to 55% better results losing weight compared to those who didn’t. That’s staggering.
Secondly, for those looking to build muscle, much of your muscle is built during the deepest stages of sleep (REM sleep). This means without good quality sleep, or enough sleep cycles the body can’t dedicate the time it needs to build muscle leaving your workouts as wasted. For men, between 60-70% of the human growth hormone is released during deep sleep which is what makes this all so critical. Sleep also gives your body time to repair torn muscle fibers during sleep so you can be better prepared to build muscle. For a lot of bodybuilders and marathon runners they’d probably be happy enough to take or leave the other benefits that are comparatively trivial.
These benefits also work in reverse too, one sleeps better if they workout and one works out better if they sleep – a perfect example of a virtuous circle. This is most pronounced with cardio and aerobics but it’s evident with all kinds of exercise (including muscle building).
It’s easy to see just how important getting a good night’s sleep is. There are benefits across the board for everyone. Even if you’re just a fitness-nut that wants to see bigger gains, sleep might just be the biggest single thing you can do to up your performance