Well here it is! The Definitive Guide to Sleep and Fitness. The reason being: I have a newborn baby and needless to say, my sleep cycles are a little screwy. I have a newborn but still maintain my same (rigorous) training schedule, yet with less sleep. So how exactly does sleep fit into fitness? Is what I’m doing unhealthy? Read and find out!
Sleep Review (stuff you already know – maybe)
Welcome to the definitive guide to sleep and fitness, please take your seat and fasten your seat belt. And also make sure your seat back and folding trays are in their full upright position. I will be your guide for this journey.
If you look above you will see a great sleep infographic, provided by the Greatist, that covers a lot of information about the sleep basics such as:
- Common sleep disorders
- Sleep apnea
- Foods that cause insomnia
- What sleep can do for you
- How to get more sleep
- And other cool facts
- Sleep consists of two cycles REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement).
- NREM cycles have 4 stages (5-15 min. each) – each stage is simply a progression of getting toward REM sleep.
- Not sleeping = a lot of bad stuff
- Sleeping well = a lot of good stuff
- A Circadian Rhythm is simply your body telling you when you are tired, need to wake up, hungry, happy, etc.. Usually in 24 hour cycles
- Sleep is a very active state for you brain in which critical processes are performed to help you maintain you physical and mental well-being.
Sleep is a very mysterious process and there is still a ton of research being done. If you feel like making $20, head down to your local university and participate in a sleep study.
7 – 9 hours is the agreed upon average adequate sleep amount. Since America is one of the most sleep deprived nations in the world don’t compare yourself to what others are doing. Get, at a minimum, 7 hours of sleep. Find out what number works best for you and shoot for it. Some say, sleep till you naturally wake up but a.) who can do that every night? and b.) oversleeping can be bad for you.
Now that we are caught up on the basics let’s see how sleep fits into this fitness thing.
To workout, or to sleep, that is the question
You’re working late, watching a movie or whatever it is that you do in the evenings and you think…I should wake up early tomorrow and workout! However, you crunch the numbers and realize you will only get four hours of sleep if you go to bed now and wake up to workout. But if you skip the workout you could get closer to six hours of sleep.
The old fitness vs. sleep debate.
The answer, unfortunately, is it depends…When it comes to sleep, every person is different. I am sure you have the friend that frequently stays up till 3 a.m. and is ready to go and energetic as ever at 7 a.m.. You may think to yourself…”It will catch up with them,” but that may not be the case.
A recent study shows that people with two copies of the ABCC9 gene (genetic factor linked to diabetes and heart disease) actually need, can function and are perfectly fine with as little as four hours of sleep. This certainly isn’t the case for a lot of people, but some people just need less sleep.
The real answer, for the normal humans…Choose fitness!! Bold statement, I know, but I say choose fitness with this caveat. Choose fitness occasionally. Don’t get in a habit of no sleep and early morning workouts. Listen to your body. Doing it once or twice and then catching up on sleep may actually be better for you. Some may disagree, but I just can’t find it in myself to say “You know what, don’t workout“. Just like everything in life…its ok in moderation.
Lycans and Gremlins
Actually, I mean, Leptin and Ghrelin.
Two hormones that must be delicately balanced, and one way to balance them is the proper amount of sleep. Leptin suppresses hunger and ghrelin stimulates appetite. If you are not getting enough sleep, your leptin levels will drop and your ghrelin will rise, which in turn will have you reaching for any food you can get your hands on. Inversely, get the proper amount of sleep and you won’t be as hungry and you will have a more properly regulated appetite.
Remember to keep your Lycans and Gremlins happy and you will be happy.
Two other things to note:
- More growth hormone is secreted when you sleep.
- Adequate amount of rest lowers cortisol.
Growth hormone is a hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration in humans. It helps your muscles grow more quickly and can speed up your metabolism.
Too much cortisol and you will have trouble gaining muscle and losing weight. Ideally you want to keep your cortisol levels low because cortisol will break protein down into glucose. Too much glucose = fat. Cortisol low = good.
Two Good Bed Time Habits, for Fitness
- Have a (protein) nightcap
- Plan, plan, plan
A recent study shows that a slow digesting protein, like casein, taken 30 minutes before can increase your protein synthesis by 22%. So your muscles actually repair themselves a little bit better if you chug some protein before bed. If you come from a bodybuilding background, like me, this one may already be a part of your daily routine. However, protein synthesis helps everyone!!
Plan and schedule, not just your workout days, but the exact time you will workout. Then, also, plan for an adequate amount of rest centered around that schedule. Everything in life gets a little bit easier with a plan. I feel like I am a broken record, with plan this and plan that, but hey, I am a planner and it helps a ton!!
Rapid-fire: Other Sleep Questions
Can I catch up on sleep later?
- Yes and no
You can catch up on sleep if you only get an hour or two behind. If your sleep debt, how much sleep you should be getting vs. how much you got, is running out of control there will be no catching up and you will become sleep deprived. That is why if you choose fitness over sleep – don’t make a habit out of it!!
Should I nap?
But do it the right way. Try not to take a nap within four hours of going to bed. Also, try to keep naps at the 10-20 minute range. Any longer than that can make it harder to wake up, since your body is now trying to get REM sleep, and it can affect sleeping at night if you sleep too long during the day.
Will working out help me sleep?
- Umm, YEAH!
If you have a pretty intense or long duration bout of exercise you will definitely sleep better at night. Research shows it is best to exercise in the morning or afternoon for it to properly affect how well you sleep at night. Working out too late at night can cause for you to be too wound up for get to sleep, or it will just take longer to fall asleep.
How’s your sleep??
- WebMD, News: Study Shows Some Need Less Sleep, Why Sleep Is Key for Weight Loss, Growth Hormone, National Sleep Foundation, Greatist: Sleep , photo, photo, photo, photo, photo