Importance Of Sleep In Fitness

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 percent of people are sleep deprived, which means that 1 in 3 people aren't getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

If you are working, going to school, or just have a hectic daily routine, I'm sure you can relate. Some people can function well on little to no sleep, while others feel the effects more. We have (wonderful) things like coffee, energy drinks and tea to help energize us on days we need a little boost—but becoming dependent on these things long term may not be ideal, especially if you are big into fitness. Isn't it funny how we dreaded bedtime as children and look forward to it as adults? Now I feel like I can never get enough of it, it feels like there simply aren't enough hours in a day.

Sleep and exercise are both key components of a healthy lifestyle. But if you had to choose between one or the other, which would it be? Cheri Mah, a sleep medicine researcher at Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco was asked which was more important and she grudgingly responded sleep [4]. Sleeping may be just as crucial as training... and the lack of it can be the enemy of muscle... but why?


If you aren't active, you may not need as much sleep as the next person. When you lead an active lifestyle, your body desperately needs rest. When you are well-rested, you perform at your best capacity. That means more intense gym sessions/workouts and less fatigue. We all know that feeling mid-workout when you want to give up because you are so tired. And I think everyone has had that time where they’ve chosen sleep over a workout. The goal is to schedule your day to fit in 7-8 hours of sleep along with time for physical activity, to balance the effects of both. If you are completing intense workouts, you may need even more than that 8 hour span in order to effectively recover your muscles in preparation for the next workout.


Rest & Recovery

If you think you build muscle while you are in the gym— you are wrong. You tear muscle fibers in the gym and repair/grow stronger muscle while you rest. Recovery time is incredibly crucial to a fitness regimen, which is why you should pay attention to your sleep schedule. Getting the 8-hour recommendation (or more) into your routine may help you feel more energized, work out harder and build lean muscle quicker than your lack-of-sleep regimen. Most athletes are recommended to get between 7 to 10 hours of sleep, because it is so crucial. When your muscles recover adequately, you are more likely to come back stronger than before. Sleep also improves mental health and hormonal balance.

Sleep tips:

  • Create a consistent schedule-- and try to stick to it even on weekends, holidays, etc.

  • Create a bed time ritual or routine to wind down

  • Make sure you aren't hungry or stuffed when you go to bed

  • Cool air may improve your quality of sleep

  • Hours slept before midnight are usually higher quality than those following

  • Make sure the room is dark and quiet


How does sleep have anything to do with diet? It doesn't seem like there would be any correlation, especially if you are eating healthy. There are many studies that show sleep deprivation is linked to weight gain and obesity, and getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night may undo the effects of dieting [1]. When you are working so hard on your diet and eating clean, this could be a nightmare. Researchers speculate that there are several ways that chronic sleep deprivation might lead to weight gain, either by increasing how much food people eat or decreasing the energy that they burn [2]. When you are running on little to no sleep, your hormones may be thrown off, including the hormone that increases hunger and appetite. Also, since you are awake for a longer period of time, you may become hungry more often. If you are up until 2am and you usually go to bed around 10pm, your body may feel hungry since your schedule is thrown off.

There are also foods that can be detrimental to your sleep intake, because they may keep you awake. Here you can find an article discussing the worst foods for sleep.

Fat Cell Composition

According to a study done by the University of Chicago Medicine [3], sleep is an extremely important component in energy metabolism. The researchers found that if you are sleep deprived, your fat cells may not function properly. You may be saying "I don't want any fat cells!" when in reality, you do, because they are crucial to everyday life. Fat stores and releases energy in our bodies, which is a vital function. You may be reading this thinking that you are fine off a few hours of sleep, especially because you feel almost 100% after you down a quad espresso. Although you may feel okay after consuming caffeine, your hormones don't agree. When you don't get enough sleep, especially consecutively over a few days, your body may become resistant to insulin (the master storage hormone).

Researchers studied 14 test subjects with similar diets and differing sleep amounts over four days, split into two groups: Poor sleep (4.5 hours a night) and Regular sleep (8.5 hours a night). The impact was huge. Seven out of seven sleep-deprived subjects showed insulin resistance, while the rested subjects didn't. Their bodies were relying on lipids that were pumping out more insulin, since their bodies weren't responding to the insulin regularly. Excess insulin is harmful, because it ends up storing fat in all the wrong places. In conclusion, the insulin imbalance caused by lack of sleep has the potential to cause serious weight gain, which can lead to obesity and possibly diabetes. It's a bigger issue than we think.

Sleep and Motivation

Studies show poor sleep habits, such as inconsistent sleep times and inadequate sleep quantity, can also negatively affect your impulse control. So if you're struggling to accomplish a goal and can't figure out why, try overhauling your sleep habits and then giving it another go.

For more information on how to boost your motivation and where motivation even comes from, check out the article below.



1. How to Lose Weight: Why Sleep Can Make You Fat

2. Obesity Prevention Source

3. Even your fat cells need sleep, according to new research

4. You Asked: Is It Better to Sleep or Workout?[/fusion_text][/fullwidth]