The amount of high-quality sleep you get can have significant knock-on effects to your health and fitness levels.
Getting enough restful sleep should be important to all of us. The process of sleeping can de-stress your mind and body, as well as give it time to repair so you’re geared up for the next day ahead of you.
With research finding that adults should have at least 7–9 hours of sleep per night, it’s crucial that we all know what sleep can do for us.
As well as improving your mental wellbeing, sleep can have a positive effect on the physical aspects, too.
In this article, I’ll be explaining how regularly getting a good night’s sleep can benefit your health and fitness levels, including how it can boost your training, reduce the risk of illness, and encourage you to choose better foods.
It can improve your training performance
If you’re an avid gym-goer, you’ll know just how important it is to rest your body in between sessions and, while eating plenty of protein can certainly help, giving your body the respite it needs can boost your performance even further and ensure you stay alert during training.
In fact, a study even found that sleep deficiencies can result in slower reaction times, which can cause significant set backs to those in competitive sports making you more susceptible to injury.
Additionally, a lack of sleep can decrease the amount of glycogen and carbohydrates that the body stores, and these are needed to fuel you through your workouts.
Depleted energy levels can also cause a loss of focus when lifting weights or performing cardiovascular exercises, which could result in serious injury.
It can reduce the chance of health complications
While some serious illnesses are driven by genetics, there are plenty of others that can be avoided by adjusting your lifestyle.
Getting a good night’s sleep can not only improve your mood and concentration levels, but reports from the NHS have also stated that it can decrease your chances of developing heart disease and diabetes, and help you avoid a risk of obesity.
A lack of sleep can also weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to catching common colds and flus. Not only will this make you ill more often, but it’ll also make it more difficult for you to fight these bugs off and can mean they worsen over time.
This is because certain cytokines — small groups of proteins that are necessary for cell signalling — need to be able to increase in order to work against these illnesses, and sleep deprivation can inhibit the production of these and other illness-fighting antibodies.
It can combat unhealthy diet choices
When you already feel groggy from not getting enough sleep and your body is lacking in energy, it becomes all too easy to reach for a chocolate bar for a quick sugar boost, rather than something more substantial with slow-releasing energy.
This can inhibit your results if you’re looking to lose weight, and can significantly impact the toning process, too. Beyond aesthetics, grabbing easy convenience foods that are packed with unnecessary fats and sugars can be destructive to your overall health, and can cause obesity.
Even if you live by an incredibly balanced diet usually, sleep deprivation can cause changes to the hormones that regulate your appetite and hunger levels, leaving them a bit confused.
This then makes it difficult for our bodies to know when they are actually hungry and when they’re not, which is typically why the sleep deprived may eat at unusual and unsociable hours.
It can boost your concentration levels
If you’re sleep deprived, you’ll spend many of your waking hours feeling fatigued, which you’re sure to have noticed has a knock-on effect to your concentration levels.
When you feel lethargic it can be more difficult to focus on a task at hand, which is why it’s dangerous for insomniacs to train at the gym or go to work when they feel this way.
Sleep deprivation interferes with the normal functioning of your brain’s cellular activity, with a study by scientists at UCLA finding that it can even stop some brain cells communicating at all with one another.
This means that your thinking processes can be slowed down, so you get less done. You could also find yourself making poorer decisions because of this slower processing — especially if your job requires you to make quick judgements.
It can help you to retain memories
Sleep is a necessary process for helping us to store memories and be able to consolidate them later.
This is because when your concentration is inhibited, so is your learning experience. Not only will you struggle to form these memories, but you’ll also find it difficult to gather the information to store in the first place.
Additionally, sleep protects your memories from being forgotten while you’re awake when life can be hectic.
If you’re feeling sleepy and less productive, it’s likely you’ll end up forgetting the important things — even more so if you’re stressed about the lack of sleep you’re getting.
A good night’s sleep is important for a whole host of reasons. Most importantly, it can impact your body and mind so making sure you’re getting enough is crucial to normal functioning.
Phil Lawlor is the Sleep Expert at memory foam mattress specialist Dormeo. With eight years’ experience in the sleep industry, Phil is an advocate for getting eight hours of quality sleep every night and recognises the benefits this can bring to our waking life.