One of the most important parts of any workout routine doesn't happen in the gym. In fact, it happens in your bed.
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Good sleep is essential for fitness and health, especially during post-exercise recovery. When you get enough sleep, you can accelerate building muscle. It also supports your strength, endurance, and memory.
What Happens to Your Muscles When You Don't Sleep Enough?
When you don't get enough sleep at night, your fitness and recovery can suffer. Your body needs sleep to restore itself, so when you don't sleep enough, you can't fully recover. Your reaction time, attention, and focus suffer as well.
With a lack of sleep, you may find it difficult to maintain positive mood and stress levels. This can have a negative impact on your performance.
Less sleep means lower energy as well, and limited endurance. When you're sleep deprived, your body doesn't produce the fuel you need for energy during sustained athletic activity, such as weight lifting or a marathon.
Muscle-Building Benefits of Adequate Sleep
When you get adequate sleep, your body better able to recover from physical activity and stresses. You can process information better and commit it to memory.
Deep Sleep Muscle Building
While you're in deep sleep, your body goes through processes that are critical for muscle recovery. Hormones that support metabolization and endurance are regulated during sleep.
Building Memories in Your Sleep
Your brain synthesizes new information while you sleep. This is important for mental function as you remember training tips, muscle movements, and advice.
Increasing Human Growth Hormone with Sleep
With exercise and long, heavy sleep, you can promote a natural increase of human growth hormone (HGH). Growth hormones are released during deep sleep, and you can encourage more hormone production with extra sleep. This promotes tissue repair and recovery of your muscles.
How You Can Use Sleep to Build Muscles
Consider extra sleep. If you're sleep deprived, getting adequate sleep will offer muscle-building benefits. But if you want additional muscle-building support, try extra sleep. Adults should get an average of seven to nine hours of sleep, but adult athletes should get 10 hours of sleep during training and competitive events.
Take naps. Although not ideal, naps can fill the gap between how much sleep you're getting and how much sleep you need. Keep naps to 30 minutes or less and avoid napping just before practice, competition, or within the hours before bed.
Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends and vacation. This will help with sleep onset, as your body learns to expect to go to sleep at the same time every night.
Maintain a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine is another way to make it easier to fall asleep. Doing the same thing each night before bed helps to signal to your brain that it's time to settle down and sleep.
Create a comfortable sleeping environment. Your bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet. Your mattress should be supportive, comfortable, and relieve aches and pains.
Exercise, but not too late. Exercise can help you get better sleep, but if you exercise too close to bedtime, it can keep you awake. Plan your workouts so you finish exercising at least a few hours before bed.
Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.
No matter how committed to exercising you have been, we all have those days or weeks where it is just easier to skip a day. First it is skipping that CrossFit class because it is just too hard, then it is missing a whole week. Next thing you know, you cannot remember the last time you went to the gym and you are considering not renewing that membership.
Once you are out of the habit of going to the gym, how do you get back to it? The answer is all in the mindset. Here are some quick changes you can make this week to get back on track.
1) Track your activities for a week in a journal
In the blur of everything we do in the average week, it is too easy to simply say we are too busy to work out. Taking the time to keep a journal of how you spend your time for the week will allow you to see patterns of active times and not so active times. Instead of always leaving that gym time for the end of the day when it gets bumped for overtime or it is more fun to hit a happy hour, add gym time into a morning time slot or before work.
2) Make exercise fun again
If the gym is a place you just hate to go, find something you enjoy doing. Do not let yourself get stuck in a rut thinking that a workout has to include running on a treadmill if that is the last thing you enjoy doing. Taking a few minutes to brainstorm a list of exercises you like and the ones you just do not like can help to clarify what you want your workout to look like.
3) Redefine your routine
Each morning you get up and do things that you really do not need to even think about. You just know you need to take care of the most basic of routines like grooming, getting dressed and preparing for the day. Instead of seeing that trip to the gym as something that is a chore or even an extra, incorporate fitness into your daily routine. Something as simple as yoga in the morning to get centered and awake quickly becomes second nature. Instead of watching the AM news over breakfast, put in 30 minutes on the treadmill while you watch it. The simple change in routine can not only help you meet whatever your current fitness goal is, but it can set you up for a lifetime of better habits.
And look to maximize all the ways you get exercise without even realizing it. For example, cleaning your house definitely burns calories, but you can kick it up a notch by cleaning while wearing some ankle weights. Or if you go for regular walks with your dog, go a little farther, or even better, take on a few dog walking clients. The responsibility you have to those pet parents will help ensure you do not put off your daily exercise and you can make some dough while you’re getting fit. Even if it’s just on the weekends, you can burn some extra calories while making a little extra dough. You can also squeeze more exercise into your work routine by taking the stairs whenever possible or switching to a standing desk.
Combine exercise with other interests
Do you find you just do not have time to work out and socialize? Instead of always meeting your besties for happy hour and empty calories, why not combine time with friends and an activity that gets you active. Training for a charity fun run suddenly becomes fun with the right team. The charity aspect combined with friends to keep you engaged can be a game changer.
Do not let a small lapse in your fitness commitment derail the whole goal. Often the first step in getting back on track is as simple as starting with a fresh perspective and making small changes starting today. A big goal can be overwhelming but small daily changes are easier to focus on and accomplish.
The time for change to a healthier, and happier you is now! It all starts with your mindset.