4 ways sleep improves your physical performance, according to science
- Emma Sweeney and Ian Walsh
When we think about what makes great athletes, few of us think sleep can play a role. But many of the world’s best athletes say sleep is an essential part of their training routine and key to helping them perform well.
Serena Williams, for example, makes it a point to get eight hours of sleep every night. NBA star LeBron James strives for eight to 10 hours a night, while NFL legend Tom Brady says he goes to bed early and gets at least nine hours of sleep.
It is not surprising, because sleep plays a major role in Metabolism, growth and tissue repair (like our muscles), and ensures that memory, reaction time, and decision-making function optimally.
All of these processes affect athletic performance.
But it’s not just athletes whose athletic performance can benefit from adequate sleep. Even gym-goers can increase the fitness and health benefits of exercise by getting enough sleep each night.
Here are some of the ways sleep benefits your physical fitness:
The exercise is excellent for improving aerobic performance. It improves aerobic capacity (the ability to run or bike faster with a heavier load) and efficiency (meaning your body requires less oxygen to run or bike at the same pace).
One factor that contributes to better aerobic fitness is exercise mitochondria; from the body. Mitochondria are small structures within muscle cells that are responsible for generating the energy that muscles require during exercise.
Research shows that poor sleep (sleeping only four hours a night for five nights) can happen Decreased mitochondrial function in healthy participants. High-intensity interval training has been shown to mitigate these deficiencies in the short term (over five days).
However, it is not currently clear how these deficiencies will affect long-term adaptations to exercise, so it is best to get a good night’s sleep if improving aerobic fitness is one of your goals.
Sleep is also important if you’re looking to build strength or muscle.
Muscle growth occurs when new proteins are added to the muscle structure, a process known as “muscle protein synthesis.” This process is triggered by exercise and food intake (particularly protein), and can continue for at least 24 hours after exercise.
Research shows that even a few nights of inadequate sleep reduces the muscle protein synthesis response to nutrient intake. This indicates that lack of sleep may make it more difficult for the body to build muscle.
Hormones act as chemical messengers that contribute to a variety of functions throughout the body, such as tissue growth and development. The hormones involved in these building processes may be referred to as “anabolic” hormones.
Two anabolic hormones, and testosterone and growth hormone, Released during sleep, it may also be important for recovery and adaptation to exercise.
These hormones have multiple functions in the body and are associated with better body composition (less fat and more muscle mass). More muscle mass and less body fat can be beneficial for exercise and health.
When sleep is restricted to just five hours a night (similar to the amount of sleep many working adults get), testosterone levels drop in healthy young men. Restricting sleep for a similar duration also alters the release of growth hormone during sleep.
While more research is needed, there is a possibility that these hormones may play a role in mediating the relationship between sleep and physical fitness, given their association with improved body composition.
4. Recharge after your workout
Aerobic exercise often uses glucose (sugar) as a fuel source. Muscles store glucose from the food we eat as glycogen to meet the demands of exercise.
Replenishing glycogen stores after exercise is an essential part of the recovery process. It can take up to 24 hours for stores to be fully replenished, with the correct intake of nutrients. The hormone insulin may be necessary for muscles to absorb glucose to produce glycogen.
Several studies show that lack of sleep reduces the effectiveness of insulin. This may affect the body’s ability to replace glycogen stores, as one study revealed reduced muscle glycogen stores after a night of sleep deprivation.
Depleted glycogen stores can affect post-workout performance in the short and long term, so it is important to ensure that glycogen stores are replenished after exercise.
How do you sleep well
Sleep is obviously important to physical fitness, so here are some ways to ensure you’re getting a good night’s sleep:
- Develop a consistent bedtime routine: Do things before bed that help you relax and slow down, like reading a book or listening to relaxing music. A warm shower before bed can also be beneficial, as the subsequent drop in body temperature can help you fall asleep faster.
- Create a good sleep environment: Exposure to light at night can reduce the quality of your sleep, so try to block out as much light as possible. Try to keep the room cool, but not too cold. An environment that is too hot or too cold can alter sleep quality.
- Be physically active throughout the day: Research shows that physical activity is good for sleep quality, so try to fit some exercise or physical activity into your day.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: This will help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, which has been linked to better sleep quality.
If you’re trying to get fit, make sure you’re getting enough sleep and that you’re sleeping well; Try to sleep at least seven to nine hours each night.
*Emma Sweeney He is Professor of Exercise, Nutrition and Health at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. Ian Walsh is Professor of Health and Exercise Science at Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK.
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