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Why Is Good Sleep Key To Optimal Fitness?

If you’re keen on reaching new heights of fitness but you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep, don’t be surprised if those goals seem increasingly had to attain. In a survey of almost 400,000 people, 32.9% admitted to not getting the required 7 to 9 hours of zzzs daily, and the result is everything from fatigue to ‘foggy brain’ and, logically, reduced performance on the field or at the gym. If you need a little more convincing, read on and discover what the latest research has to say about sleep and sports performance.

Why Boost Sleep Quantity?

There are two key aspects to good sleep, and they are quantity and quality. Studies have shown that both are key to athletic/fitness performance. One study published in the journal, SLEEP, found that Stanford swimmers who extended their sleep to 10 hours per day improved their times significantly, plus noticed improvements in attentiveness and mood. Another study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that individuals who slept longer improved in various athletic drills. Further research found that sleep extension involves response time and daytime functioning in athletes – both of which are key qualities to achieving increasingly higher fitness goals.

Stress A Common Reason For Poor Quantity Of Sleep

If you’re tossing and turning at night, unable to hit that comfortable ‘sleepy feeling’, the cause could very well be stress. The National Sleep Foundation says that although there are medical reasons for insomnia (e.g. reflux, back pain and asthma), there are also psychological ones. Depression and anxiety are two common, stress-related conditions that affect sleep. So are unhealthy lifestyle choices (everything from drinking stimulating beverages late at night to using technology like tablets and TVs at bedtime, sleeping in a loud bedroom, or sleeping in one that is not dark enough). Insomnia should be tackled proactively during the day. This can be achieved through proven stress-busting methods such as yoga and meditation, which are used in rehabilitation settings due to their high success rates in reducing stress hormone levels.

Sleep Quality Is Also Key

If you’re in bed for the hours you need to be but you wake up feeling cranky and tired, or you wish you could stay an hour or two longer in bed, your sleep quality could be to blame. In order to perform well in fitness challenges, you need to make your way through all sleep stages (including the deep sleep stage, during which the majority of HGH – or Human Growth Hormone – is released). HGH is key for bodybuilders – and indeed all athletes – because it helps maintain, build and repair healthy tissue. It is key for accelerating muscle tissue injury, boosting metabolism, burning fat and building muscle mass.  

What Is Good Sleep Quality?

The National Sleep Foundation reports that to enjoy good sleep quality, you need to fall asleep within half an hour of getting into bed, wake up no more than once during the night, and be awake for no longer than 20 minutes in total after lying down for the night. If you are waking up frequently, try to find out why. The solution could be as simple as installing blackout curtains in your room if light is keeping you awake.

If you wish to perform at your best in the gym or in your chosen sport, make good sleep a priority every night. Poor sleep can affect your ability to focus, decrease your reaction time, and make you feel fatigued in the daytime. Start off by creating a comfortable space to rest, and try to eliminate stressful situations from your life. Rely on breathing and meditation to take you to a happier, more positive space.