The average amount of sleep that an adult (18+) should be getting is 7-9 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Some of us will be getting very close to that, but most of us simply won’t.
Unfortunately, I have to include myself in the group of people getting less than the recommended period of sleep. The average Brit tends to sleep a lot less than 7 hours, with some reports even stating it as low as 6 hours 19 minutes. Sleep gives your body time to recover, repair and build up the muscles that you worked during exercise. There are also extra benefits, as adequate sleep helps reduce the risk of illness and injury, resulting in extra time to train and improve.
Adequate sleep isn’t always possible, due to work, family or even an inability to switch off after a busy day, to name a few. Small changes to night time habits can help, such as less time on devices like phones, tablets and TV, or even begin by reducing the amount of light in the house. Light, particularly blue light (smart phones etc), affects melatonin secretion. This hormone prepares the body for sleep and permanently lowering these levels can lead to different types of diseases. Consistent wake up and sleep times are another way to improve quality of sleep, as it helps to regulate your body clock. Regular exercise, cool room temperature, comfortable pillows and mattress are a few other techniques to improve sleep.
Is a lack of sleep detrimental to my health?
It is well documented that there is a correlation between sleep deprivation and weight gain. The underlying cause of increased obesity risk from sleep disruption is unclear but may relate to changes in appetite, metabolism, motivation, physical activity or a combination of all of those factors. Certain behavioural data reveals that healthy, yet sleep deprived adults prefer larger portions of food, seek more calories, exhibit signs of increased food-related impulsivity, experience more pleasure from food and expend less energy. There is also a hormonal balance shift from ones promoting fullness to those that promote hunger.
Some research suggests that sleep deprivation also increases levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Sleep deprivation has also been shown to decrease the production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored and used for energy during physical activity. In short, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus.
So, Is sleep important for exercise?
In short, YES! Sleep has a massive impact on training but also our everyday life, it’s worth trying to improve it as much as possible to see all the benefits and live a happier, healthier life.