We’ll start this blog by asking you a question, how much sleep do you get per night?
Now keep a mental note of the answer and read on to explore just why getting a sufficient amount of sleep each and every night is critical to improving not just your performance, but health overall.
Sleep and fitness are two essential pillars of overall well-being, and they are intricately connected. While exercise and nutrition often take centre stage in discussions about achieving fitness goals, the importance of quality sleep should not be underestimated.
Adequate sleep plays a vital role in muscle recovery, hormone regulation, cognitive function, and overall physical performance. In this blog, we will delve into the fascinating link between sleep and fitness, exploring the optimal amount of sleep needed to maximise fitness results and how you can optimise your sleep everyday.
So let’s start by exploring the reasons why sleep is important for fitness:
1. The role of sleep in muscle recovery
One of the key benefits of sleep for fitness enthusiasts is its role in muscle recovery. During sleep, the body undergoes important restorative processes, including muscle tissue repair and growth. During deep sleep stages, growth hormone secretion peaks, promoting protein synthesis and facilitating the repair of damaged muscle fibres. This repair process is crucial for building strength, increasing muscle mass, and improving overall athletic performance.
2. Hormonal regulation and sleep
Sleep plays a critical role in regulating various hormones that are closely linked to improving your health and fitness. Insufficient sleep can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones involved in appetite control, energy regulation and muscle growth. Leptin, the hormone responsible for suppressing appetite, decreases with lack of sleep, while ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger, increases. This hormonal imbalance can lead to overeating and weight gain, thus potentially hindering fitness progress. Moreover, sleep deprivation negatively impacts insulin sensitivity, which can impede muscle recovery and development.
3. Cognitive function and exercise performance
Adequate sleep is vital for optimal cognitive function, including memory, attention and decision-making abilities. These cognitive aspects are crucial for achieving peak performance during exercise and also to day-to-day activities. Lack of sleep can impair reaction time, coordination and focus. In turn, diminishing athletic performance and increasing the risk of injury. Additionally, sleep deprivation can hinder motivation and reduce mental resilience, making it harder to push through challenging workouts or maintain consistent exercise habits.
4. Sleep and exercise-induced stress
Exercise places stress on the body, triggering adaptations that promote fitness gains. However, sleep is a key factor in effectively managing exercise-induced stress. Sleep deprivation elevates the body's stress response, increasing cortisol levels. In turn, elevated cortisol levels not only hinder muscle recovery and growth but also promote fat storage. Sufficient sleep, on the other hand, helps to lower cortisol levels, allowing the body to properly recover from exercise-induced stress and promote optimal fitness outcomes.
Now that we understand just how important sleep is for fitness in particular, the question begs…
How much sleep do we actually need per night?
While individual sleep needs may vary, research suggests that most adults require between 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night for optimal health and fitness.
However, athletes and individuals engaging in intense physical training may benefit from additional sleep to support enhanced recovery and performance.
Our founder, Dorian Yates, knew the importance of sleep and did everything he could do optimise his sleep. Back during his competitive bodybuilding days, Dorian would ensure he slept for a solid eight hours at night but would then take this a step further and sleep for two hours in the afternoon. This was two hours of uninterrupted sleep whereby no one was allowed to disturb him at all. Dorian prioritised his sleep and still does to this day, without sleeping for a sufficient amount of time, his body would not be able to fully recover and he wouldn’t be in top form!
How can I optimise my sleep?
If you are struggling to get an adequate amount of sleep per night, the good news is that there are quite a few things you can do to help rectify this.
Here’s a few ways in which you can optimise your sleep and also wake up feeling refreshed and raring to go for the day.
1. Establish a consistent sleep schedule
Consistency is key. Probably the most important thing you can do is to wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day. This especially includes the weekends when people tend to have a long lie in, we’d recommend to limit this to no longer than an hour if you choose to have a short lie in.
By creating a consistent sleep schedule, this helps to regulate your body’s internal clock and creates regularity.
2. Limit electronic device usage
Due to the impact of both blue light and psychological stimulation, limiting the usage of electronic devices at night is key to getting a good night's sleep.
Devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions emit blue light which can suppress the release of melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
Also, when scrolling through social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok, you can evoke cognitive stimulation which is probably the last thing you need at night when you’re trying to fall asleep. With infinite scroll, you can literally spend hours consuming content which can delay your sleep by quite some time.
Therefore, we’d recommend not using your devices at least an hour before bedtime and also, you could set your device to night shift mode whereby the blue light is reduced.
3. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine
This brings us neatly onto our next top tip to maximise your sleep, which is you should develop a relaxing bedtime routine.
Now this routine can start roughly two hours before bedtime where you could begin by consuming your last meal, followed by a warm shower which can be extremely relaxing for your body.
Following this, you could engage in calming activities such as reading a book. We’d recommend a physical book and not an online book due to the potential blue light disturbances.
We would also recommend avoiding stimulants perhaps six hours before bed time, but this can vary from person to person depending on the user's tolerance to stimulants. But as a good rule of thumb, avoid stimulants six hours before sleeping.
4. View morning sunlight
Creating a good, healthy sleep routine actually begins in the morning.
A technique that is perhaps unheard of before, but thanks to the power of the internet, this has become widespread in recent times.
Popularised by professor Dr. Andrew Huberman, he advocates viewing bright light - ideally from the sun - within an hour of waking up in the morning.
Some of the benefits include:
- Setting your circadian rhythm so that your body knows when it's time to sleep and wake
- Enhanced energy throughout the day
- You’ll get a supply of vitamin D
- Plus many more.
It is recommended not to view the sunlight through a window or sunglasses as it’ll take far longer to reach your system.
Depending on the cloudiness of the sky, you should aim for at least 5 minutes of sun exposure if it's a clear day, right the way to 30 minutes if it’s a cloudy day.
So grab your shoes and head off outside in the mornings.
5. Food and supplementation
There are certain types of food and drink to avoid before bed such as dark chocolate, alcohol, spicy foods and sugar for example as these can both disrupt sleep and make it harder to fall asleep.
However, on the flip side, there are certain foods and drinks that can actually help you get a better night's sleep.
- Kefir, this food contains an amino acid called tryptophan which can promote getting a better nights sleep and also can help to increase the levels of melatonin.
- Pistachios, which contain melatonin, are a great natural sleep aid. They also contain vitamin b6 and magnesium which also provide a host of benefits.
- Collagen, supplementing with collagen can be a great weapon in your arsenal to help you get a restful night's sleep. Collagen contains glycine which can help the body to reach deep sleep quickly and in turn, improves the quality of sleep. Explore our collagen complex which boasts a range of health benefits.
- Herbal teas, there are a wide range of herbal teas available that can help your body to relax and wind down, perfect for before sleeping. Ingredients such as chamomile, lavender, valerian are all excellent, natural choices that you can use to optimise your sleep.
So there you have it, the importance of sleep for health and fitness, how to optimise your sleep, how much sleep you need per night and more.