Sleep better, feel healthier. Here's why sleep is vital for both fitness and health - and how to improve it
Good sleep is as important to your health and fitness regime as having the right diet and doing the right moves. Do you often fit in extra training sessions for a big event - like a race, a distance run or a cycle sportive - by getting up early? Fine, but do make sure you compensate by making up for the lost hours of sleep by getting an early night on a regular basis: ensuring you get the optimum amount of sleep each night can enhance your sporting performance dramatically.
Dame Kelly Holmes: how rest days improve your fitness Extensive research has been carried out on the exact impact sleep has on performance, with the conclusion that extra sleep gained over several weeks of training greatly improves performance on four separate measures: speed, accuracy, mood and alertness. How much sleep is needed when you are 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. You need more sleep because 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,' says Tim Pinchin, mattress brand Octaspring's sleep expert.
'You should try to get an extra hour’s sleep a night when you are in training, as just this small amount of time can have a marked impact on performance.'
TRY: going to bed an hour earlier than normal, or grab an afternoon nap when you can.
Dr Pixie: 6 ways to improve your sleep How does sleep deprivation affect your performance? '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 your body stores to be converted to energy when needed) goes hand in hand with the amount of sleep being obtained,' says Tim. '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 one has, the less stamina and speed one will have too.'
Nell McAndrew's energy tips
Professional triathlon coach Nike Matanza agrees, '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.' How does lack of sleep affect your decision-making? Tim explains, 'Sleep 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 until it needs recharging, so 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.'
How to work power-napping Can lack of sleep make you more injury-prone? '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.' How can you improve the quality of your 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. Make sure you're maxing up on this type of pure, quality sleep in the following ways:
Sleep better with an evening workout
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