Are you getting enough sleep to perform at your best? This week's guest columnist Phil Lawlor, Sleep Expert at mattress manufacturer Dormeo, talks us through the value of sleep and how it can affect our fitness.
We all know the importance of a good night's sleep, but many of just aren't getting enough of it. So much so that the World Health Organisation estimates that two thirds of adults around the world are sleep-deprived, according to The Independent. This can have a profound effect on our daily lives, affecting everything from our concentration levels to how energized we feel.
Whether you're a regular gym-goer or simply just like the occasional run, you'd be surprised by how much sleep affects your performance. In this article I'm going to discuss this idea further and explain how getting a good night's sleep can improve your fitness.
Getting enough sleep
Sleep shouldn't just be an afterthought, and taking the time to ensure you get the right amount of sleep each night will enhance your performance dramatically. In the same way that you need to consume more calories the more you work out, so too do you require more sleep. The more you push yourself, the more your body needs time to recover.
If you’re in training for a specific event or with a particular goal, rather than just for general health, it is a wise idea to experiment with getting more sleep and seeing how your performance changes. Even if you currently feel like you’re at peak performance, you'd be surprised by the effect that going to bed earlier or having an afternoon nap might have.
Increased energy levels
While diet and the amount of training you are doing will have a direct effect on your energy levels, so too will lack of sleep. If you are active in the day but find you are suffering from a lack of energy, chances are you aren’t getting enough — and the problem will only accumulate if you don't stop and allow your body time to recover.
When your body needs energy for a particular activity, it taps into your glycogen stores and coverts it for use. When you aren't getting enough sleep, the body stores less glycogen, and therefore decreases the potential energy available for you to use. The less energy you have, the lower your performance will be and the faster you will burn out.
Another benefit of sleep for active individuals is that it helps you to repair and improve. Human growth hormone is a signalling molecule that tells your body to grow and reproduce cells, helping you to repair it. As much as 70% of daily growth hormone is secreted during sleep.
On the flip side of this, not getting enough sleep causes an increase in cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. This means that your body's natural ability to heal and repair itself is inhibited and will take much longer, creating a vicious cycle that can lead to an increased risk of injuries.
Improved cognitive performance
It's not just your body that benefits from getting a good night's sleep: your mind will, too. This will be obvious to anyone who has ever not slept well and the next day felt a kind of mental haziness, actually feeling as though you aren't operating at full capacity. This is because sleep plays a vital role in cognitive restoration.
Much like a battery, the human brain can only do so much before it needs to be recharged. If you aren't getting enough sleep, you aren't fully recharging your batteries, and thus your mental performance decreases. This affects your levels of alertness and decision-making abilities, making you groggy and slowing you down relative to your maximum performance.
Decreased dietary disturbances
If not getting enough sleep becomes a consistent issue, this can lead to more negative effects down the line. When you are tired, you make worse decisions and your impulses are amplified. Not only that but, if you refuse to go to bed, you will start to crave energy to stay awake, which is why you might sometimes find yourself chomping on chocolate late into the evening.
Many studies have been conducted on sleep and its effects. One University of Chicago study found that sleep-deprived people are more likely to choose snacks with a higher fat content, while another found that a lack of sleep leads people to eat larger portions of food (WebMD). Either way, the evidence all points the same way — a lack of sleep leads to bad habits.
So, you can see that sleep has a huge impact on our fitness and is vital when it comes to being at our best. Get enough sleep and you will see your energy levels rise, your cognitive abilities improve, and you might even turn to healthier evening snacks.
In addition to getting the right amount of sleep, getting the right amount of protein is essential if you are working out or being active. Check out our shop to choose from a variety of products that we offer or browse our website for more details about our range protein water that can help you meet your fitness goals.