Sleep and working out

Do you need more sleep after a hard workout?

You turn in earlier when you’ve lined up a big workout for the following day, but what about the other side of the clock? Once you’ve hit your foam roller and refueled with the necessary nutrients, do athletes actually need to sleep more post-hard workout? “The simple answer is absolutely,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., and director of the Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

For the most part, everyone needs about 7 hours of sleep in a 24-hour window.

But “if you’re active—either physically or mentally—your body creates more adenosine, a chemical that works to create sleepiness, and you’ll accrue more of a drive to sleep,” Winter says. Consider ATP, the energy current of your body. Our bodies create it and break it down to give us energy. “A runner is burning a lot of ATP and using that for energy,” Winter says. And a byproduct of that ATP? Adenosine.

But does more of an urge to sleep mean more of a need to sleep? In many ways, yes. “There are mechanisms within sleep that help clear adenosine from our brain,” Winter says. So when you get enough sleep, you’ll wake up refreshed. If you don’t, you may wake up groggy, with adenosine still circulating.

And more sleep has its athletic perks. One study found that when tennis players upped their shuteye to 10 hours a night, they sprinted faster and improved the accuracy of their hits. On the other hand, research has demonstrated that regular exercise—at least 150 minutes a week—can improve sleep quality and energy levels throughout the day.

Of course, fitness levels do matter when it comes to how much exercise will leave you exhausted. Take two twins, one who’s a runner and one who’s not. The non-runner will likely have a much different response to a long, hard jog. “If you’re breaking down more ATP and have a stronger stress response, you’ll probably be a lot sleepier,” says Winter.

To build in ample bedtime: Think about post-workout zzz’s like you think about post-workout food, suggests Winter. “If you’re really active, you’re going to be hungrier than if you’re sitting around all day,” he says. “But while intense exercise is likely to increase your sleep need over time, the exact amount is unclear. It depends on the athlete.” You know your body best—if after a hard workout day, you tend to wake up feeling groggier than normal, you probably need to nix the pre-bed Netflix and prioritize that extra hour of sleep instead.

The Sleep and Exercise Connection That Can Change Your Life and Your Workouts

Scientists have known for a while that sleep and exercise have a symbiotic relationship, but that link is proving to be deeper and more essential than expected.

“The functions of sleep are to conserve energy and to repair tissues in the body,” says Bradley Cardinal, Ph.D., a codirector of the Sport and Exercise Psychology Laboratory at Oregon State University. The more time you spend in the gym, then, the more shut-eye your body needs, says Cardinal. The results can be dramatic: After working out for four months, insomniacs got a life-changing 85 more minutes of sleep a night-better than any drug can deliver, a study in the journal Sleep Medicine found. (That’s much better than any of these kooky insomnia cures.)

And the benefits go both ways: Deeper sleep ensures that your energy stores and muscle function are replenished, says Cardinal. “Snoozing well the night after you exercise makes your muscles and tissues stronger and more resistant to fatigue and injury,” adds Jennifer Martin, Ph.D., a clinical sleep psychologist and a member of the Equinox Health Advisory Board. You can gain the full power of the sleep-sweat connection by following the four-point plan, here.

1. Have a High-Protein Bedtime Snack

People who drank a protein shake before hitting the sheets experienced a greater increase in muscle strength than those who didn’t, according to research in the Journal of Nutrition. That’s because in your body, protein breaks down into amino acids, which build up your muscles. Since most of us consume protein only with meals, “there typically aren’t many amino acids available overnight for muscle growth,” says Jorn Trommelen, Ph.D., a sports nutrition researcher at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. That means your body’s prime recovery hours aren’t being used to their full potential. To get the most muscle-building power while you sleep, try a protein-rich snack like Greek yogurt or a turkey roll-up. (Better yet, try one of these high-protein desserts.)

2. Step Up Your Game

It takes just 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a few days a week to improve your sleep, says Kelly G. Baron, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in sleep at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “But more seems to be better,” she says. Increasing the amount of time you work out or the intensity of your routine will translate into even sounder sleep, since your body will require more time to reenergize and repair. Dial it up slightly to get the bigger benefits: For instance, if you’re a runner, tack a few extra miles onto one or two runs a week, or add one weekly session of sprints or hill repeats.

3. Turn In a Little Earlier

When you get more quality z’s, your motivation to work out skyrockets, says Baron, who found that people spent more time in the gym when they slept more the night before. “Sleep affects people’s perception of how hard exercise is,” she says. If you’re tired, your brain may try to convince you to save your depleted resources by hijacking your good intentions to visit the gym or by making your workout feel unusually difficult once you’re there, according to the journal Sleep Science. All you have to do to regain your motivation is get to bed a little sooner-but not so early that you’ll have trouble drifting off. Just 30 minutes should be enough to increase your drive to exercise the next day.

4. Go Fast In the Morning and Heavy at Night

If possible, schedule your cardio workouts for first thing and strength training for after work, say researchers at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. They found that people who did aerobic exercise at 7 a.m. spent more time in the deep sleep cycle-the kind that’s most beneficial for your health-than those who did cardio at 1 or 7 p.m. For weight-lifting workouts, nighttime sessions improved sleep quality more than morning ones. (Up Next: The Health Benefits of Morning Workouts.)

Both types of exercise help you sleep by reducing the amount of stress hormones your body releases, says Scott R. Collier, Ph.D., the study’s author. But doing cardio too close to lights-out can backfire. Your body temperature usually dips around bedtime, signaling to your system that it’s time to sleep. A sweaty workout may disrupt that process by keeping you hotter for longer, says Collier. Resistance routines don’t cause that big spike in your body temperature, so even if you lift an hour or two before bed, you’ll still be able to nod off easily.

  • By Mirel Ketchiff @mirelbee

Exercising for Better Sleep

Based on available studies, “We have solid evidence that exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality,” says Charlene Gamaldo, M.D. , medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital. “But there’s still some debate as to what time of day you should exercise. I encourage people to listen to their bodies to see how well they sleep in response to when they work out,” she adds.

How Exercise May Help You Sleep

Researchers don’t completely understand how physical activity improves sleep. “We may never be able to pinpoint the mechanism that explains how the two are related,” she says.
However, we do know that moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep you get. Slow wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate. Exercise can also help to stabilize your mood and decompress the mind, “a cognitive process that is important for naturally transitioning to sleep,” says Gamaldo.

The Timing of Exercise May Matter

Some people may find that exercising close to bedtime seems to keep them up at night, says Gamaldo. How does working out affect the mind?

  • Aerobic exercise causes the body to release endorphins. These chemicals can create a level of activity in the brain that keeps some people awake. These individuals should exercise at least 1 to 2 hours before going to bed, giving endorphin levels time to wash out and “the brain time to wind down,” she says.
  • Exercise also raises your core body temperature. “The effect of exercise in some people is like taking a hot shower that wakes you up in the morning,” says Gamaldo. Elevation in core body temperature signals the body clock that it’s time to be awake. After about 30 to 90 minutes, the core body temperature starts to fall. The decline helps to facilitate sleepiness.

Despite these biological responses to exercise, other people find that the time of day they exercise doesn’t make a difference. “Whether it’s in the early morning or close to bedtime, they’ll see a benefit to their sleep,” says Gamaldo.
“Know your body and know yourself,” she says. “Doctors definitely want you to exercise, but when you do it is not scripted.”

How Much Exercise You Need for Better Sleep

Patients often ask Gamaldo how much exercise they need for better sleep, and how many weeks, months or years it will take to experience this benefit.
The good news: People who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night. “It’s generally not going to take months or years to see a benefit,” says Gamaldo. “And patients don’t need to feel like they have to train for the Boston Marathon to become a better sleeper.”
Moreover, while many studies focus on aerobic activity and sleep, Gamaldo says picking an exercise you like will help you stick with it. For example, power lifting or an active yoga class can elevate your heart rate, helping to create the biological processes in the brain and body that contribute to better quality sleep, she says.
“We really want to encourage people to exercise, just be mindful of timing and whether it seems to affect your ability to get optimal sleep quality,” she says.

How Sleep Affects Your Workout: Working Out on No Sleep

If you have ever attempted working out on no sleep, you may have a feel for how sleep affects your workout. As you will see, science has something to say about that feeling as well. In a study from the ACSM, 12 athletes took part in a series of mental and physical tests after getting a full night’s sleep — and then repeated the same tests after a night of no sleep.

Study Advises Against Working Out on No Sleep

Researchers who took part in the ASCM study on how sleep affects your workout found that participants could engage in passive activities, such as reading, watching movies, or listening to music, but struggled to do anything active. After working out on no sleep, test subjects fatigued sooner and reported feeling as though they had to exert more energy to complete the same workout they did on a full night of sleep.

Not surprisingly, the study confirmed working out on no sleep leads to poorer athletic performance. In addition, it was also found that being sleep-deprived leads to the mind causing the body to “give up” when it would otherwise be physically capable of going on.

That’s because your body relies on glycogen, energy stored in the muscles, to fuel your workouts. When glycogen runs low that’s when you should start feeling fatigued. However, the study found working out on no sleep caused the muscles to grow tired before their glycogen stores had run out.

Whether you like to run, walk, jog, do yoga, or go to the gym — a good night of sleep is paramount for optimal performance. Not to mention sleep is the body’s time to repair itself from the physical stress it goes through in a day. Better sleep equals better recovery. Working out on no sleep means your body hasn’t fully recovered from your workout the day before. And if you put your body through another strenuous workout the day after not getting a good night’s sleep, the effects will only begin to multiply.

The More You Control Sleep, The Better Your Athletic Recovery And Improvement In Performance.

That’s what science has to say about how sleep affects your workout, but there’s no greater expert on how sleep affects your workout than you. Try using a journal or a fitness app to document how much sleep you got in a given day, and document how your daily workout felt after that amount of sleep. This will paint a clearer picture over time illustrating how improving your sleep can lead to improved athletic performance.

It’s pretty clear how sleep affects your workout, and how you should make it a priority to get more sleep, and better quality sleep. The following tips will help you find methods of getting more sleep that are simple and repeatable.

How to Get More Sleep

If you know the root cause for, or you suspect, why you’re not getting enough sleep at night, then you already know what to do to get more sleep. For example, you may need to turn Netflix off earlier in the night, put the video games down, or cut back on your caffeine intake.

If you truly struggle with getting a good night’s sleep despite your best efforts, then we have a few additional strategies.

Tips For Working Out On Little Sleep

  • Fuel your body. Proper nutrition and refreshing water in the morning will help you feel as energized as possible. Think oats, a breakfast burrito, half a grapefruit, avocado on toast.
  • Skip the hard stuff. The lift after little to no sleep is not the time for deadlifts, squats, or power cleans. You can get your PRs another day. Today, stick to basic lifts at a slower speed and maybe some cardio.
  • Resort to your gym playlist. Throw on your RunPhones® to wick away sweat and let your favorite gym playlist push you through your workout.
  • Cut it short. Keep your workout to 45 minutes or less on day with little rest and recovery time.
  • Be kind to yourself. It’s okay have days like this. Don’t be too hard on yourself and add more stress!

Repurpose your RunPhones® into SleepPhones®

Did you know your RunPhones® headphones could also be used as SleepPhones®? In fact, some of our customers have told us they prefer the material for sleeping versus our traditional SleepPhones® fabrics. The material is lighter-weight, moisture-wicking and cooler-feeling to many of our customers!

That being said, also consider some of the tactics we recommend to SleepPhones® customers for getting better quality sleep. These techniques range from falling asleep, to listening music or nature sounds, to using advanced techniques such as binaural beats, guided mediation, and ASMR.

What’s more, all of the following recommendations can be completed using your RunPhones®:

  • Ways to Fall Asleep
  • Binaural Beats and Sleep
  • Two Powerful Types of Music to Help You Sleep
  • Natural Remedies for Insomnia
  • ASMR for Sleep

Good luck on your journey toward getting more sleep to fuel your workouts and recovering with a good night’s sleep!

Shop RunPhones® For Training & SleepPhones® For Recovery

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Is It Better to Sleep In or Work Out?

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Staying healthy is so easy, right? Log eight hours of sleep, work out for an hour a day at least five days a week, and steer clear of processed foods. Also drink enough water, meal prep, and meditate. Trying to fit it all in, on top of all the other variables in your life (kids! work! relationships!), can seem impossible. So when you’re debating the choice of lying in bed for another two hours or schlepping to the gym, sometimes shuteye wins. We get it: working out on no sleep can be a real drag.

But is that such a bad thing? After all, some mornings you just don’t feel well, or maybe you overdid it yesterday. Is it ever worth it to sleep in and skip the gym? Turns out, science still doesn’t have the hard and fast answer (yet).

“Both sleep and exercise are main behaviors that contribute to physical and mental health,” says Kelly Glazer Baron, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and an associate professor at the University of Utah. Her research has found that clocking at least seven hours of sleep can actually help you work out longer and harder the next day. And the exercise/sleep equation goes both ways—people with insomnia who started a regular aerobic exercise program improved the quality of their sleep and felt less tired during the day, another study from Northwestern University found. So working out on no sleep can actually help with the whole “no sleep” thing! (Even more proof: Why Sleep Is the #1 Most Important Thing For a Better Body)

Considering multiple studies point to the direct relationship between sleep and exercise, there’s no denying that you should strive for adequate amounts of both, adds Shannon Fable, director of exercise programming at national gym chain Anytime Fitness. “If that’s impossible, try to only sacrifice your sleep two to three days during the week in order to hit the early morning cycling class. Get some extra sleep the other days and on the weekends.”

That said, there are still a few hard and fast rules you can follow to determine what to do on those tough days when your bed feels oh-so-comfy.

Sleep or Sweat?

If you got seven to eight hours of sleep the night before… You’re good to hit the gym, says Fable. Seven to nine hours of sleep is what most adults need, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

If you’ve been sleeping less than six hours most nights that week… It’s time to rethink your schedule, recommends Baron. See where you can cut corners to be more efficient: Head to bed 15 minutes earlier or shave 10 minutes off your morning routine to get a bit more sleep. If you’re not a morning person, consider a lunch break or an after-work gym time. (Try this insanely effective 15-minute workout when you’re crunched for time.)

If you were up all night… Definitely skip the a.m. sweat sesh, Fable says. (And maybe stock up on these possible insomnia cures.) Not only do you need the sleep, but your coordination will be affected, making exercise potentially more dangerous. Your ratings of perceived exertion will also make exercise feel harder than it is, she warns. Even if you’re working out at the same intensity as you usually do, sleep deprivation can mess with your mental performance, according to research in the journal Sports Medicine. Moderation is key when working out on no sleep or when tired. Exercising too hard can make you more tired and increase your risk of injury, because fatigue can hamper concentration and form. “When you’re feeling sleepy, back off a little from your workout status quo; reduce the intensity and duration of your exercise,” says Shawn Youngstedt, Ph.D., a professor in the College of Health Solutions at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

If you’ve only worked out once that week (and it’s Friday)… If you’re aiming for three to four workouts per week, it’s time to move, says Baron. Just 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise three times per week can lower your risk for heart attack and stroke, says the American Heart Association. So don’t hit snooze!

If you’ve been consistently killing it at the gym that week… Skip your workout, advises Fable. Everyone deserves a day off and your body needs sleep to repair after heavy workouts. Rest days allow for protein synthesis, which is crucial for building muscle, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

If you’re sore… Sleep in and take a day off. Overtraining can cause a decrease in sleep quality and duration, Baron says.

If You’re Feeling Beat…Eat for All-Day Energy

After a rough night, whether you’re working out on no sleep or heading straight to work, skip the energy-drink IV in favor of revitalizing nutrients. “It’s amazing how eating the right foods can help you make it through the day,” says Lauren Antonucci, R.D., the director of Nutrition Energy, a private nutrition-counseling service in New York City. (See more about how to eat for better sleep.)

Antonucci’s meal plan will keep you revved—and full—until dinner.

  • When you wake up: Dehydration compounds fatigue, so down two glasses of water first thing. Aim to sip half your body weight in fluid ounces by bedtime (for a 145-pound woman, that’s 72 1/2 ounces, or about nine cups).
  • Breakfast: Go for eggs, scrambled or hard-boiled. “They’re one of the most absorbable types of protein, with just the right amount of fats and a dose of energy-boosting B vitamins,” Antonucci says. For staying power, add healthy carbs, like a slice of whole-grain toast and some fruit. A hit of caffeine will kick-start your day; if java makes you jittery, grab a mug of green tea. It has some caffeine, plus a compound called epigallocatechin, which, studies show, produces a relaxed and attentive state.
  • Midmorning: Improve your focus with a handful of mixed nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and peanuts. The protein provides a jolt of energy, while the combo of filling fiber and omega-3 fatty acids tides you over until lunch.
  • Lunch: Build your meal out of lean protein, slow-burning complex carbs, and healthy fats—try a skinless chicken breast with a broccoli, black bean, and quinoa salad—to power through the next few hours.
  • Late afternoon: Chips or chocolate chip cookies may sound awfully good right about now, but after causing a quick spike in your energy level, they will send it crashing. For a steady, long-lasting pick-me-up, choose nutrient-rich high-fiber snacks like hummus with a whole-grain pita or baby carrots.
  • By Sara Angle @saraangle22
  • By Sara Angle and Nicole Yorio Jurick

HOW EXERCISING HELPS YOU GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

Did you know that when we are tired, we often reach for unhealthy, fatty food?

Numerous sleep researchers, including those at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, have recently found evidence of this. People who are sleep deprived consume around 300 calories more per day. Why? It seems that their metabolism, cell formation and digestion are slower. And not (as you might be thinking) because they raid the refrigerator in the middle of the night. 😉

A 5K run, a workout with your own body weight or a yoga session not only help you stay in shape, but they improve the quality of your sleep, too.

In today’s blog post, you can learn why exercise helps, which hormones play a role in muscle recovery, and tips and tricks for getting a good night’s sleep.

“Move more to lose more”

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has found that regular exercise significantly improves the quality of your sleep and can help you sleep through the night.

The only thing is that it takes about 4 months for your body to get used to the increased activity. So don’t get discouraged if your new training routine doesn’t improve the quality of your sleep right away. It may well be that you need longer to fall asleep if you do an intense workout right before going to bed. Why? Physical exercise stimulates the autonomic nervous system and until it settles down, you can’t sleep. So your body needs time to adjust to the new training stimuli.

Our tip:

Finish your running or bodyweight training at least two hours before going to bed to ensure a restful night’s sleep. Do you like working out in the morning? If you plan on exercising before work, you should go to bed earlier than usual to make sure you get enough sleep.

Better sleep, better performance

During the day, we want to do a good job at work and still have the strength to complete a challenging running workout. If you don’t sleep well at night, you have less energy during the day and thus less desire to exercise. Therefore, a good night’s sleep is essential for your training routine!

This has recently been confirmed by a study on student athletes conducted by the renowned Stanford University: Students who got more sleep (in this case, 10 full hours!), performed better than those who placed less emphasis on their sleep.

Incidentally, it doesn’t always have to be 10 hours of sleep a night. 7 to 9 hours is the optimal amount.

Your muscles grow while you sleep

What you require after a long run or an intense bodyweight training session is recovery: Your muscles need to rest now – and this is just as important for your desired training effect as the actual workout itself.

Incidentally, the male hormone testosterone plays a major role in building muscles: The harder you work out and push your muscles, the more testosterone your body releases. Testosterone is needed to help your muscles recover after your workout – without it, your damaged muscles cannot build new tissue and you won’t get stronger.

This is where sleep comes in again: The longer and better you sleep, the more time your body has for recovery and growth. So you see, your muscles do grow in your sleep. 😉

10,000 steps for a good night’s sleep

The clock keeps ticking. Our thoughts keep racing. We lie in bed for hours and we simply can’t sleep… It’s really frustrating! There are times when deep sleep is more necessary than ever. For example, when you are supposed to run a (half-)marathon the next day or you have an important meeting at work.

When you are stressed, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which interferes with your sleep. This means that on the next day, besides feeling even more tired, you will have a huge appetite thanks to a lack of leptin, the appetite-suppressing hormone.

Low levels of leptin result in increased hunger, which of course leads to the 300 calories we mentioned at the beginning of the article. This also lowers the quality of your sleep – particularly because the fat cells that collect in your neck lead to annoying snoring. And you certainly don’t want to disturb your loved ones sleep, do you? 😉 The fact is that sleep and weight are connected.

That’s why you need to get plenty of exercise – you should shoot for 10,000 steps a day. Exercising outdoors can help you cope with stress and makes you really tired in the evening so you sleep better.

Tips for falling asleep faster

If you regularly have trouble sleeping, you need to do something about it.

Besides getting in plenty of steps and exercise, you can try to improve your sleep by establishing a bedtime ritual, eating a light dinner, and limiting your alcohol intake.

And here they are, 4 tips for you on falling asleep

  1. Dim the lights for a while before going to bed. This acts like the sun setting in your apartment, which makes you sleepy faster.
  2. Make your bedroom as dark as possible. Light interrupts your body’s production of melatonin, which disrupts your metabolic processes.
  3. Develop a ritual like brushing your teeth, showering or reading before lying down to sleep. Your body will get used to it and will know that it’s time to sleep now.
  4. Sleep in a cool room. The temperature in your bedroom should be between 16°C (60.8°F) and 18°C (64.4°F).

So as you can see, sleep is incredibly important for a healthy and fit lifestyle. Take care of yourself and we wish you a good night’s sleep!

***

Should you exercise despite lack of sleep?

Have you been constantly smashing your exercise routine and now finding it hard to miss even one session? We get that (or not). It’s normal to be afraid you’ll lose the progress you took so long to build. But sometimes it becomes difficult to avoid sleep deprivation because you juggle amongst many responsibilities, so you end up in some sort of cognitive dissonance – should you exercise despite lack of sleep?

Find the balance

We know from elementary science that exercising does wonders to your body. It lowers the risk of type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and even a heart attack. Without a doubt, it also gives you a great state of mind – fresh, healthy, and always ready to seize the day.

So does sleep. Although it requires less physical effort than working out – it gives you a sound mind and body too. Well, sleep and exercise, it’s a powerful tag team these two.

Much like everything else in life, striking a balance is key. In fact, the Australian Government has provided physical activity guidelines that state doing any physical activity is better than none. So how you find your balance depends on your current level of exercise, and how much sleep you have on you.

I lack sleep, should I exercise when…

I pulled an all-nighter? When running on ZERO hours of sleep, it’s recommended to go home and get enough rest. Not only does this increase your risk of injury, but also impacts your body’s ability to recover and repair itself. Being sleep deprived also raises cortisol levels that make your immune system vulnerable to any viruses around. So, yes, just get the day off… from working out, that is.

I’m hungover? If you’re still feeling nauseous first thing in the morning, don’t do it. The most important thing you need to do when hungover is to rehydrate. Once all the hangover begins to settle down, breaking a sweat with a gentle exercise could do the trick. Try simple stretching exercises like yoga.

I feel jet lagged? Absolutely, but do listen to your body. Pause right away should the exercise start making your jet lag worse. Fortunately, some studies show that regular exercise AT THE SAME TIME can help achieve quicker recovery. So, if you exercise at 7AM in Melbourne, do it at 7AM wherever you go.

I slept under six hours (but still feel okay)? This is where you can do some compromising to balance sleep and exercise. If your sleep deprivation is not chronic and you feel that it hasn’t sucked the life out of you yet, it should be fine to exercise for a maximum of 30 minutes. DON’T do high-intensity, long-duration, or even heavy weight-lifting exercises. It’s best to just be on the move – stay on the treadmill, do some walking, incorporate light weights, or even just do a short yoga session.

I always work out? If you work out between four to all days of the week and feel exceptionally weak, it may be your body’s way of telling you to rest. Slow down for a bit. Rest days can significantly improve your muscle strength as it recovers because your growth hormone (GH) levels are highest during sleep. Overtraining and failing to rest will only get you to a plateau – unable to see any more improvements in muscle growth nor fat loss.

Related Article: Can We Work Out Before Sleep?

In ALL the mentioned cases, don’t succumb into the trap of pre-workout drinks or stimulants. You’re way better off taking a nap than relying on a temporary adrenaline rush.

Bottom line? Listen to your body.

Often your instincts will tell you when you can or cannot exercise. Listen to what it tells you because it all comes down to how you feel. And we don’t mean the lazy feeling – we mean the feeling of not being able to push your body any further. If you feel like forcing it, pack your bag and go. It will only do more harm than good.

Finding the balance between sleep and exercise ties well with listening to your body. Over time, you’ll get a good rhythm of your on/off days and it’ll be second nature to know just when to rest.

Does anyone else remember Wake-ups? Those little pink caffeine pills with a rooster graphic could keep you up far longer than any cup of coffee ever could. I spent many university all-nighters fueled by “roosters,” cramming for exams that should have been attended to much earlier. Sometimes I could barely write my answers on a test the next day because my hands were shaking from too much caffeine and too little sleep.

Now, a cup or two of coffee each day is my only caffeine buzz, and I no longer stay up all night, but I still don’t get as much sleep as I should. Few people do. The average person sleeps 60 to 90 minutes less than they did 50 years ago. Thirty-five to 40 percent of the American adult population has problems with falling asleep or with daytime sleepiness.

“It’s a big problem,” says Lawrence Epstein, M.D., chief medical officer for the Harvard-affiliated Sleep Health Centers and author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep. “People don’t think sleep is important because we can get by with less, but we’re putting our health at risk.”

NEXT: The Powers of a Good Night’s Rest

The Powers of a Good Night’s Rest
“We spend roughly a third of our lives asleep—obviously it has a crucial function,” Epstein says. Sleep plays important roles in repair, restoration, and memory; and lack of sleep hinders cognitive function. A recent study found that going for 18–20 hours without sleep had the same negative impact on performance as a blood alcohol level of 0.1 (0.08 is considered legally drunk in the United States).

Sleep deprivation has a similar effect on physical performance. Not only does it reduce energy and motivation, but lack of sleep has a huge impact on performance. A study at Stanford University monitored players on their varsity basketball team. Researchers asked the players to increase their sleep time to roughly 10 hours a night, compared with their normal night’s sleep of 6–9 hours. When they slept more, the players had faster sprint times. Their shooting accuracy also improved, with free-throw percentage increasing by 9% and three-point field-goal percentage increasing by 9.2%.

Studies have proven that sleep is essential to both mental and physical performance, but what’s even more interesting is that our brains never get used to sleep deprivation. “The less sleep we get at night and the longer we go without sleep the worse our performance becomes,” Epstein says. The effects of sleep deprivation are cumulative—they never plateau. However, when you ask someone if they are sleep deprived, initially they will say yes. But as they become more and more chronically sleep deprived, they will start to say they’re not sleepy. Their performance is impaired, but after a while they no longer realize the negative effect that lack of sleep is having on their minds and bodies. “We are not good judges of how we’re being affected by lack of sleep,” Epstein says.

NEXT: Sleep and Your Health

Sleep and Your Health
Sleep is also essential for good health—both long and short term. A new study conducted by the Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom found that depriving your body of sleep takes the same toll on your immune system as stress. “Sleep helps sustain your immune system function,” says lead researcher Katrin Ackermann. Without it you are at increased risk for a host of ailments, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

But it’s not just chronic sleep loss you have to worry about. Ever wonder why you’re more likely to get the flu after a busy session at work or a trip to Vegas with the boys? Ackermann’s study found that after just 24 hours without sleep, detrimental changes in the body were already starting to occur. Granulocytes are a type of white blood cell that plays an essential role in immunity. When we don’t get enough sleep, granulocyte counts jump during the night, indicating a direct immune response by the body.

“Granulocytes react immediately to sleep deprivation and just one night of sleep loss can affect the immune system,” Ackermann says. Future studies need to be done in order to understand the full implications of the increase in granulocyte count resulting from sleep deprivation, but increased granulocyte counts have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular mortality.

NEXT: Sleep, Your Weight, and Your Sex Life

Why Less Sleep Can Equal More Weight
Research has shown that people who habitually sleep fewer than six hours per night are much more likely to gain weight, while those who sleep seven hours are less likely to do so. Why? When you sleep, your body secretes hormones that help control appetite, energy metabolism, and glucose processing. Sleeping too little (or at irregular times) upsets the balance of these hormones. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that poor sleep can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Disruption of cortisol has proven to be a large factor in weight gain, particularly around the midsection. (It also increases blood pressure levels.)

Poor sleep also increases insulin secretion. After just one or two days without adequate levels of sleep, the body is no longer able to properly metabolize glucose. Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose processing and promotes fat storage; higher levels of insulin are associated with weight gain and also increase the risk factors for diabetes considerably.

Insufficient sleep is also associated with lower levels of leptin (a hormone that alerts the brain when it has had enough food) and higher levels of ghrelin (a biochemical that stimulates appetite). As a result, poor sleep may lead to food cravings even after you have eaten an adequate number of calories. When you’re tired, you will be more likely to eat unhealthy foods to help satisfy your cravings or give you a quick energy boost.

Sex and the Sleep Deprived
If you still need another reason to get your zzz’s, how about the impact it will have on your sex life? A recent study of college students found that adequate sleep increased sexual desire and physiological desires,” says Paul Loprinzi, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY. Adequate sleep and exercise can also increase blood flow to the penis.

NEXT: Do You Get Enough Sleep?

How Much Sleep Do you Need to Get?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, most people need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. That being said, quality of sleep is a factor, as is genetics. “Individuals vary greatly in the amount of sleep they need,” Ackermann says. Most people need 7.5 to 8 hours a night. Some need 9 to 10, and a lucky few can get by on as little as 4 to 5 hours per night. However, Epstein warns that more people probably think they can get by on five hours a night than actually can.

Are you Getting Enough Sleep?
“If you’re waking up and are refreshed and ready for the day, I think that’s the best sign that you have had a good and sufficient night’s sleep,” Ackermann says. “If you feel tired during the day and have problems concentrating at work or school, this could be a sign you did not get enough rest.” Since people often underestimate the amount of sleep they need, Epstein suggests giving yourself a little test the next time you have some time off. “Next time you’re on vacation for a week, sleep as long as you can,” Epstein says. At first you will find that you sleep a lot—your body is playing catch-up. But by the end of the week, you’ll be waking up earlier and feeling alert. However long you sleep on the last night of your vacation is how much sleep you need.”

Do Sleep Needs Change?
As newborns, we sleep almost all the time. As we progress through childhood, the amount of sleep we need drops off. There’s another bump during adolescence, when a lot of growth and development occurs during sleep, but after that, sleep needs pretty much stay the same. “We continue to need the same amount of sleep as we get older,” Epstein says. The only difference is that it gets harder for some people to get in a continuous block of sleep. “It can take longer to get the same amount of sleep.”

Taking Back the Night
If you have one or two nights without much sleep, it can actually take you more than a few good nights of sleep to catch up. A recent study demonstrated that following one night of sleep deprivation, the levels of granulocytes still had not returned to baseline levels after one night of recovery sleep. “Instead, an extended sleep period of 10 hours was required,” Ackermann says. This result suggests that it is not sufficient to gain merely the hours of sleep that have been missed by having a good night’s sleep. You may need some extra zzz’s. That doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping in until 10 a.m. “You don’t need to recover all your sleep in a single block,” Epstein says. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, an afternoon siesta can help you catch up.

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Sleep Medicine and Disorders: International Journal

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