LIFESTYLE
15/07/2013 17:35 BST | Updated 16/07/2013 13:25 BST

How Sleep Can Help Your Gym Workout

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From de-stressing to protecting against heart disease, sleep has long been associated with physical and mental health.

But what if we told you that there was another benefit of getting those all-important 40 winks? Namely your fitness.

According to various research, getting enough sleep is crucial to making the most of your gym workout.

Tim Pinchin, sleep expert at premium mattress brand Octaspring, shared his expert knowledge on just how much sleep should be had to get the best out of exercise (not that we're ever short of reasons to curl up in bed).

And for those who do struggle to nod off, he's offered some fab tips to help you get those 40 winks.

How much sleep is needed in training?

Athletes in training need more sleep than they normally would, in the same way they need more calories when exercising. You’re burning more, so you need to replace more. Stress and exertion is being applied to the body and it is during sleep hours that the body recovers and repairs any damage that may have occurred, keeping the body in the fittest state it can possibly be.

Getting just an extra hour’s sleep a night when you are in training, can have a marked impact on performance. This can be obtained preferably by going to bed an hour earlier and can also be achieved by having an afternoon nap, if possible.

See Also: Too Hot To Sleep? Our Top Tips To Beat The Heat

How does sleep deprivation affect your performance?

Reduced Energy Levels

If you are being very active during the day but aren’t getting enough sleep, you will find that you’ll suffer from reduced energy levels, and this will only continue to build up if you don’t take time to allow your body to rest and recover.

This is because the body’s ability to store glycogen (glucose from food that is stored in animals to be converted to energy when need be) goes hand in hand with the amount of sleep being obtained. If you are not getting enough sleep, there will be too little glycogen stored within your body to be converted to energy when you need it most. The less energy you has, the less stamina and speed you'll have too.

Sharpness of decision-making

Sleep also serves as a key element in cognitive restoration, the process by which your brain recovers from mental fatigue.

The brain can only concentrate for a certain period of time without until it needs recharged, so this is essential because if you are not getting enough sleep, your split-second decisions will be less accurate, which can have a great impact on performance, especially in contact or coordination sports.

Repairing the body

Lastly, it is during sleep that levels of the important growth hormone, somatropin, are increased and it is this hormone that is responsible for repair. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, causes levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, to increase. Thus, when not getting enough sleep, the levels of the growth hormone in the body are lowered and the level of stress hormone is increased, meaning repair and healing will take that much longer and the risk of injuries will be greatly increased.

Nike Matanza, a professional triathlon coach, says: “Quality sleep is one of the most important parts of our training. We train hard, we eat well and we need to recover as well. Bed is where recovery happens. Uncomfortable bed equals sleepless nights and achy body in the morning. Slow recovery or not sufficient recovery potentially means injuries, fatigue and burn out”.

See Also: The Best And Worst Sleep Positions For Your Body

What can be done to improve quality of sleep?

As important as it is to rack up the amount of hours of sleep, quality of sleep is of equal, if not greater, importance since slow-wave (deep, or REM) sleep is the most restorative type of sleep. This type of sleep is only reached through pure comfort, the right body temperature and a lack of distractions.

We always advise making sure the room is dark and cool when getting into bed and would advise against drinking caffeine after 5pm, even if you think you are unaffected by it.

We also advise reading or listening to mellow music in bed before going to sleep in order to take everyday worries off your mind, along with relieving the bladder so that there are no natural physical strains during your sleeping.

It is also worth investing in good quality bedding that respects the posture of your spine, lets your body breathe, keeps you at the right temperature, and is free from pressure points that may interrupt your sleep.