When you're training, sleep can be as important as exercise. Your body needs sleep to perform well, and if you're not getting enough, you won't recover adequately, and may have difficulty building muscle and endurance. When you sleep, your body releases and regulates important hormones that help you recover, grow, react more quickly, and sustain performance.
What Happens to Your Fitness When You Don't Sleep Enough
When you're not getting enough sleep at night, your body doesn't get the time it needs to restore and rebuild itself. This is especially damaging when you're training, as your muscles need that recovery time to grow.
You have less energy for sustained athletic activity when you're sleep deprived, as your body's production of glycogen and carbohydrates is undermined by a lack of sleep. Your mental focus and ability to handle stress is lowered. Training on compromised sleep puts you at risk of injury, as your reaction time and performance suffer.
How Sleep Helps Support Fitness
Sufficient sleep means better performance. When you're well rested, your body is able to recover from training, perform faster, and react more quickly. Your mental focus and coordination are more accurate as well.
You can expect better performance when you get enough sleep because your body releases growth hormones in deep sleep. These hormones are important for repair and recovery of your muscles. Deep sleep also regulates the stress hormone cortisol, which helps your body properly digest glucose.
During non-REM sleep, you experience cell division and regeneration at a higher rate, which supports healthy muscle recovery. Light sleep helps you mentally process information, which is important to remembering what you've learned in training.How to Maintain a Smart Sleep Schedule for Health and Fitness.
We know that sleep deprivation can be damaging to energy, muscle recovery, and mental focus, while sufficient sleep can help you recover and perform better. If you want to improve your fitness, it's important that you get good sleep, and that starts with a healthy sleep schedule.
Follow these tips to create a sleep schedule that supports strength and endurance:
Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.