If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping you’ve probably noticed that after a couple of nights it really starts too add up. It can start to affect not only your energy levels and mood, but also your performance at the gym. Not to mention playing havoc with your appetite and self-control. In part one of our sleep series we’ll take a look at the impact of sleep deprivation on your fitness goals.
Experts say that fitness is 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise. They say that abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym. Either they’ve never had any trouble sleeping or they’re so sleep deprived they’ve forgotten how much sleep deprivation can impact your fitness goals. Sleep should be equally as important as exercise when it comes to health and fitness goals.
Sleep deprivation and gym performance
As a once off – a gym session after a bad night’s sleep may go okay. After a couple of nights, if you can still find the motivation to get up and go to the gym, you’ll probably notice that your performance takes a hit. Studies have shown that the brain doesn’t get used to being sleep deprived either. We may think that we have adjusted to less sleep but it is likely that our performance will keep getting worse but we don’t realise it.
Your body repairs itself while you sleep by maximising growth hormone (GH) output. This creates an anabolic state. IThe majority of your muscle recovery and muscle growth happens while you are aslepp which it is so important for your physical and fitness goals. Sleeping also replenishes specialized chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters) such as dopamine, adrenalin, noradrenalin and more. These chemicals are responsible for your overall energy levels, attention and focus, motivation and muscular contractions. Hard training and every day activities depletes these chemicals.
If you’re finding you aren’t making progress in the gym, take a look at whether you’re sleeping enough. To increase strength and muscle size you need to optimise muscle recovery and repair. If you aren't getting enough sleep you may be missing out on the gains from your training!
Sleep deprivation and appetite control
It’s also harder to stick to the food plan when we’re sleep deprived. Cravings seem more intense and a lack of sleep causes chaos with your hormone levels. The two hormones affected relating to appetite are Ghrelin and Leptin. Ghrelin stimulates your appetite to signal you to eat; leptin suppresses your appetite to signal you to stop eating.
Normally these two hormones are released on and off so you feel hungry, eat and then feel full. Sleep deprivation can cause ghrelin levels to go up and leptin levels to go down. Can you see how this can play havoc with your diet? Your hormones are going you need to eat more – don’t stop eating! So you’ll end up feeling hungry more often and eating more because your hormones aren't regulating as normal.
So as you can see, sleep really is an important factor for reaching your fitness goals. Establish a healthy sleep routine. Here are a couple of tips for getting a better night’s sleep:
Avoid caffeine late at night – if you need a pre workout before a late training session try one with a lower caffeine dose or a non-stimulant pre workout.
Start winding down a couple of hours before bed – avoid watching television, playing on the computer or your phone before sleeping. The blue light emitted from electronic devices can affect your circadian rhythm (you’re body’s internal clock that dictates when to be awake and when to sleep).
Set a sleep routine – Aim to go to bed at the same time every night and get up within an hour of when you usually get up. Sleeping until midday on the weekend might seem like a good idea but it can throw your sleep pattern out of whack for the following week.
Power nap – If you are getting sleep deprived a 30-45 minute power nap before training can improve your performance at the gym. Just make sure to set an alarm so you don’t sleep longer and wake up feeling groggy.
Sleep supplements – There are a number of sleep supplements that can help improve your ability to fall asleep and improve sleep quality. We’ll look at these in our next article.
Written by Gemma