Making Your Sleep Work for Your Exercise

You all know sleep is an essential requirement for you to function well. Too little rest or a night of interrupted sleep may leave you feeling unprepared for the day ahead, particularly if you’re going to be exercising. Your strength and stamina levels may be lower than usual, meaning you may not reap the potential benefits from your workout session.

What happens to your body during exercise?

Your body heats up because your heart pumps harder to distribute oxygenated blood where it’s needed while your body burns energy. Weight training creates tiny tears in your muscles. These are then repaired and strengthened, improving and enlarging them.

As your level of fitness increases, so does your concentration and ability to focus. Your blood pressure decreases as your fitness level increases due to your body manufacturing new blood vessels. Additionally, your resting heart rate drops.

Endorphins are released and you are likely to feel happier after a workout. However, because of the physical demand, your body needs a period to restore and rebuild itself.

A good tip to remember is to have an electrolyte restorer shortly after training to replace the fluids your body has lost during your workout.  A protein-based meal post-exercise is a good idea too, as protein is a necessary component needed to facilitate muscle repair. Most of your body’s recovery, however, takes place during sleep.

What happens to your body during sleep?

During various stages of sleep your body temperature and blood pressure drop, your muscles relax, and essential hormones, such as somatotropin, are released. This particular hormone is vital in the process of cell and tissue regeneration. During sleep, your body restores and energizes itself, which, according to research, is an integral part of working out.

Exercise and sleep work like a partnership; it’s a fine balance. The former increases the heart rate while the latter relaxes the body. Exercise strains the musculature while sleep releases the naturally occurring chemicals needed to repair the damage and build resistance to it. Sleep aids the brain in ridding itself of the waste it has built up during the day, retaining what’s been learned and storing it in the memory.

Understanding this, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I seeing an improvement in my workout?  For example, are you able to lift heavier weights, or run an extra mile?
  • Am I exhausted—as opposed to merely tired—after a training session?
  • Do I feel good about what I’ve achieved during my exercise?

If you’ve hesitated or answered no, then chances are you’re not getting enough rest. This may be because stagnation in an exercise regime indicates no improvement in muscle strength or cardiovascular fitness levels. Over-exercising may lead to extreme fatigue which may mentally affect your ability to fall asleep, so it’s crucial to include rest days in your exercise program to counter this.

The average person needs between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep every night. Athletes training for an event such as a triathlon will require more rest as they are placing their bodies under abnormal pressure in preparation for the occasion. Not sleeping on the right kind of bed may have a negative impact on muscle healing, mental cognition, and eating habits. 

Understand your mattress requirements

It is also important that your bed is well-matched to your physique and workout regime.  Many people are of the opinion the firmer the better, but different mattresses are suitable for various weight limitations and sleeping positions.

Mattress technology has advanced in recent years. Now, many mattresses have been designed to offer a comfortable, quality sleep that will also support better muscle recovery and cell renewal, along with a sunnier disposition.

If you sleep on your back, a firmer mattress would be required as it ensures more stability for the spine.  You can also add positioning pillows to your bed for additional support. Side sleepers require a mattress that is soft and contours to the body. According to eachnight, some of the best mattresses for side sleepers are memory foam because it relieves pressure on certain areas of the body and allows for easier blood flow. Add a large contour pillow for additional firming support of the head, neck, and shoulders. 

For those that sleep on their stomach, some studies have shown that a medium-firm, cool, breathable mattress improves the quality of sleep as it offers sufficient support of the backbone while relieving pressure off the hips where many people carry a lot of their weight.

It is important to remember that exercising raises your heart rate and your internal core temperature, so have a small glass of water about an hour before bed.  Another suggestion is to invest in cotton sheets as natural fibers easily absorb moisture increasing the level of comfort during sleep.

All these factors will contribute to a good night’s rest, allowing the body to revitalize and strengthen itself for your next workout or trained event which will hopefully be an improvement on the one before.  

Create a bedroom conducive to rest

Make sure your bedroom is a place of rest: clean, tidy, quiet, well-lit, and comfortable ambient temperature. Avoid having many items on your bedside table; a book, glass of water, and a reading lamp are enough.

If your mobile device has a blue light filter capability, make use of it, as the blue light emitted from them affects the natural sleep rhythm of your brain.  Even better would be to place it in your bedside drawer or switch it off completely because as this study shows that even when your mobile device is on silent mode, its electromagnetic radiation discharged may interfere with sleep.

Some exercise regimes will encourage an increased amount of calories in your diet. Be sure that these are consumed a few hours before you fall asleep otherwise you are likely to find your sleep quality lessened or yourself waking up without energy.

Give Sleep Consideration

Be sure to give you sleep routine as much attention as your workout. While some people are inclined to see an extra hour in bed as lazy, this extra hour may be exactly what your body needs to stay strong. If you neglect your rest, you’ll find your goals harder to achieve as well as your progress disappearing.

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