Sleep and Exercise - Why a balance is important

Sleep and Exercise - Why a balance is important

Have you previously sacrificed an hour of sleep for an hour at the gym? If you’re serious about fitness, there’s a good chance you’ve traded rest for extra time on the treadmill, but we’re here to tell you why you shouldn’t make a habit of it and why that extra sleep you're getting right now isn't a bad thing when it comes to maintaining your fitness levels. 

Sleep and fitness, along with a healthy diet, are the pillars of a healthy lifestyle, but the catch is that you can’t have one without the other two.

The best way to maintain your health is to ensure a proper balance between all three.

Plenty of research suggests that adequate sleep and exercise reinforce one another—people who sleep enough find it easier to maintain their activity levels, while those who get enough exercise tend to sleep better than those who don’t.

Neglecting sleep for the sake of exercise means you’re seriously limiting the benefits of your workout.

Sleep and fitness interact in all sorts of interesting ways. Below, we cover some of the most common concerns about how to balance the two.

How many hours of sleep do you need to recover from a workout?

You should always aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, whether to recover from a workout or maintain your health. For optimal health and workout recovery, you should consider the quality of your sleep in addition to how many hours you get. Good quality sleep means falling asleep within 30 minutes or so and staying asleep through most of the night.

Do you need to sleep more when you exercise?

If you’ve had a particularly hard workout, it’s possible that you may need more sleep than normal. Exercise makes your body produces more adenosine, a chemical that makes you feel sleepy. However, oversleeping excessively isn’t a good idea. Even after a workout, you probably won’t need much more than the 7-9 hours of sleep you should be getting anyway.

Can you lose weight by sleeping? 

You can definitely boost your effort to lose weight by sleeping enough. While sleeping more than the necessary 7-9 hours won’t help you lose more weight, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule helps keep your metabolism healthy, reduces your cravings for sugary foods, and keeps you energetic enough to live an active lifestyle.

How does sleep help muscle growth?

Sleep helps muscle growth because your body releases a massive surge of growth hormone while you sleep. If you’re hoping to build muscle, you should prioritize getting enough quality rest, since the body actually performs the majority of its muscle-building work while you sleep. In addition, sleeping enough will help you maintain the activity levels you need to build muscle.  

What should I eat before bed to build muscle?

Eating a low-carb, protein-rich snack 30 minutes or so before bed can help build muscle overnight. One popular study showed that protein-rich food near bedtime increases protein synthesis compared to a placebo. Healthy snack options before bed include Greek yogurt and chia seeds, eggs, grilled chicken, and cottage cheese and nuts.

Is sleep or exercise more important?

Sleep and exercise are equally important cornerstones of your general health. Assessing which is more important is like comparing the importance of food vs. water for survival. That said, to run with the analogy, consider that you can live longer without food than without water. Similarly, you can likely go a few days without working out without suffering immediate consequences, but losing even one night of sleep is likely to leave you seriously impaired. 

Should you exercise with no sleep?

Putting your body through a strenuous workout when you’ve been up all night is not advisable. A lack of sleep can impair your coordination, leaving you more likely to injure yourself, and fatigue will make it significantly harder to get a good workout. Going for a brisk walk might make you feel a little better, but leave the running and weightlifting for another day.

Is working out before sleep good?

There’s no hard and fast rule here. Working out immediately before bed is a bad idea for most people, since your body generates stimulating hormones like cortisol and adrenaline during exercise, but studies suggest that those effects tend to wear off within an hour or two. People who work out regularly generally sleep better than those who don’t, so your best bet is to experiment and see what works for your body.

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