Exercise & Sleep: Why You Need Both for Ultimate Health
To all the folks trying to up their fitness level, we see you.
Whether you’re a lifelong amateur athlete, recently committed to a more consistent exercise routine, or just trying to keep up with your kids on a day-to-day basis (a workout in itself!), taking your physical health seriously is no easy task — and it should be commended.
But while you may know the steps you need to take to get into better shape, what you do in addition to exercising is just as crucial.
This especially goes for getting enough rest. Without adequate sleep, all that work you’re putting in at the gym, well, it won’t actually work.
“We exercise for a purpose: for cardiovascular health, to increase lean muscle mass, to improve endurance, and more. All of these ‘goals’ require sleep,” says W. Christopher Winter, MD, the president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and the author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It.
Let’s break down these correlations a little further:
- Sleep and Growth Hormone (Episodes 27, 37, 38, 40)
When you get enough sleep, your body produces growth hormone, which helps with recovery, conservation of energy, and repairing and building up the muscles you work out while exercising. In short, that growth hormone is essential for athletic recovery.
- Sleep and Activity Level (Episode 44)
Multiple studies have found that less sleep equals less physical activity — and it stands to reason. When you’re not well-rested, whether from a poor sleep schedule, insomnia, or another sleep disorder, your body and mind are often too tired to perform at their best.
- Sleep and Motivation (Episode 42)
According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, adequate sleep helps motivate people to stick to their exercise routine and work out when they say they will. The more sleep people got, the more likely they were to complete their exercise regimen. Not surprising, but notable nonetheless!
- Sleep and Exercise Fatigue (Episode 56)
If you actually make it to your workout, not getting enough sleep can make exercise feel harder. Sleep deprivation won’t affect the biomechanics of movement or lessen your physical capabilities, but it will make you fatigue faster.
But, here’s the real problem: Americans, as a whole, are significantly sleep-deprived. More than 30 percent of us don’t get the recommended 7–8 hours of sleep each night. This staggering statistic means approximately 108 million people in the US are sabotaging their own fitness goals, too. Getting adequate rest will make all the difference.
Recovery Solutions to Support Sleep
In addition to the basics of sleep and nutrition, there are other things you can do to help your body recover properly after exercise. Some of these methods include:
Active Recovery (Episode 23)
Active recovery is a movement that’s less intense than your regular workout days. This type of recovery covers many options, from yoga to light stretching to walking and swimming.
Working at a lower intensity will help with recovery by increasing blood flow to your muscle and tissues so that they can repair themselves. It also helps flush out waste products that build up during exercise and contribute to muscle damage and fatigue.
Proper hydration improves bodily function, but when you exercise, you can lose a lot of fluid. (This is especially true for endurance athletes who sweat a lot during long workouts.) Ideally, you should be supplementing that fluid loss while you exercise, but replacing water after exercise also boosts recovery.
Supplements (Episode 16, 22)
While supplements should not take the place of healthy foods, they can play a beneficial role in our overall nutrition and the recovery of our muscles and reducing inflammation after workouts. Some specific supplements that improve recovery and performance include probiotics, Omega-3 fish oils, glutamine, curcumin, and your essential protein. Add these supplements to your daily routine and post-workout meals to help the body recover more quickly.
Massage & Therapy Treatments
There are many therapies to consider to treat muscle soreness and fatigue, including massage, compression garments, water therapy, and cryotherapy. The benefits of these treatments range from reduced swelling to less pain and improved muscle recovery to cell rejuvenation and immune system boost.
The big takeaway?
Sleep plays a big part in helping you feel well-rested and ready to keep up with your exercise routine, so don’t skimp on it!
Plus, other factors can also help you achieve the level of recovery you need to perform at your best. Do your research, try new methods, and create a balanced formula of sleep, exercise, nutrition, and other recovery methods to feel your best.
So, are you ready to prioritize rest and recovery to maximize your workouts and move toward optimal health? Check out our resources on all things related to exercise recovery:
Active Recovery Information and Programs from Phase Six Fitness
Recovery Services in the Northern Virginia Area
Natural Sleep Aids from The Sleep Doctor
Cordyceps Benefits for Anti-Aging, Sleep, Exercise Performance & More
Sleep is a Skill Podcast
The Model Health Show
The Ultimate Health Podcast