Health / Expert Advice

How Does Sleep Affect Your Workouts?

Skip the weights if you're feeling sleepy.

We don’t have to tell you that sleep is important. We also probably don’t have to tell you that you’re likely not getting enough of it.

Very few of us have the luxury of getting the prescribed eight hours of shut eye each night. But sleep and exercise go hand-in-hand.

So, although you might be tempted to trade in an hour of sleep in favor of an extra hour of Game of Thrones or round two of drinks, you might want to think twice before doing so.

Not only can a lack of sleep make you drowsy at work (not to mention make getting out of bed in the morning a huge pain), but it can also have some pretty serious effects on your next Aaptiv workout.

Keep reading to see just how sleep keeps you on your A-game!

Sleep helps prevent injury.

Sleepytime = recovery time. There’s no better way to put it. We need our nightly sleep to rebuild and repair our bodies—we all know that. According to Dr. Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, recovery time during sleep is one of the most critical aspects of muscle contraction and protein building. A lack of sleep can cause a big reduction in muscle memory, which could lead to injury.

Sleep deprivation has also been tied to increased metabolism, which might seem good, but can actually be a problem. A big metabolism boost may cause increased energy expenditure, increased inflammation in the body, and testosterone reduction. “Sleeping less than five hours has shown an 11 percent reduction in testosterone production,” explains Breus. Not ideal.

Arguably the biggest negative side effect of sleepless nights? Reduced production of growth hormone. “When we sleep well, we make more growth hormone,” says Dr. W. Christopher Winter, President of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine. “This leads to better recovery from the wear and tear of our sport.”

Winter explains that during deep sleep, which generally occurs more during the first half of the night, we produce this growth hormone. And why is it so important? Human growth hormone (HGH or GH) is released by the pituitary gland in the brain and is essential for growth during youth. But in adulthood, it’s responsible for tissue repair.

Our meditation classes can help you get to sleep faster. Download the app today and see!

Sleep helps with accuracy and reaction.

Sleep can impact our cognitive functions, too. In the short term, that can mean thinking slower and taking longer to complete basic tasks. In the long term, though, it can mean serious effects on your long-term memory, reaction time, and even visual abilities.

Breus explains that you’re less attentive and responsive to visual cues when you’re sleepy. And to no surprise, a lack of sleep can have a serious impact on your accuracy or even aim in sports. “Eye-hand coordination has been directly linked to sleep deprivation,” adds Breus.

Too little sleep and exercise don’t work well together. So it’s safe to say that if you’re running on empty, you might find it hard to keep up in your next workout class. So skip the weight lifting next time you’re feeling drowsy.

Sleep helps with intensity.

Looking to reach a new PR or reach for the 10 pounders instead of the 5 pounders? Catch some ZZZs! “Sleep deprivation causes an increase in the perception of pain,” says Breus. “The more tired you are, the more you perceive the exercise to be more difficult.”

So what does this mean to your next Aaptiv class? If you work out while tired you might feel the pain and exhaustion a bit more than you normally might. Studies show that prolonged heavy exercise while sleep deprived can give an athlete the perception that they’re more tired and maxed out, even if the actual heart rate and the metabolic rate hasn’t changed!

Now if you’re already killing the sleep and exercise games, a) bravo for you and b) you just might need a bit more sleep if you’re taking on a more intense sport. “With increased physical exertion, we tend to produce more adenosine, a chemical that makes us sleepy,” says Winter.

And how much is enough? Breus suggests eight to nine hours a night for elite athletes who are training in season. And although we’re not all triathletes or Iron Men, we think those numbers are all-around good goals to keep in mind!

Sleep helps with motivation.

Although we can’t guarantee you’re going to jump out of bed each morning, we can assume that a full night of sleep can help improve your mood somewhat. And for anyone looking to make it to a 7 AM gym session, motivation and enthusiasm are key.

“REM sleep has always been linked to the more mental aspects of performance,” says Winter. “Individuals who struggle with their sleep display less motivation, poorer focus, and more of a tendency to perceive pain.”

In 2008, Stanford researchers noted that college athletes who added extra sleep to their schedule each night not only saw improved races times, sprint times, and free-throw shooting, but also saw major boosts in their mood and vigor reports. “These results begin to show the importance of sleep on athletic performance and, more specifically, how sleep and exercise work together to achieve peak athletic performance,” noted the lead author of the study, Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory.

Bottom line

Sleep and exercise are a match made in heaven. Prioritizing sleep is just as important as finding the right balance between strength training and cardio. You just need it. “Sleep is just another aspect of training,” explains Breus. “If you cheat on your conditioning, you will feel it in the race, the same holds true with sleep.”

We understand not every night will bring a full, uninterrupted night of rest. But, if you’re working out regularly, try to prioritize your sleep as much as possible.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, Aaptiv can help with our meditation classes designed to get your brain in a sleepy state. Download the app today and see how it can help!

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