Here’s a myth we’re happy to bust: exercise is hard work and sleep is stagnant. While it may seem the two don’t have a lot in common, both require dedication, focus and a commitment to health. Like the ultimate power couple, sleep and exercise build off each other in important ways, working hand in hand to improve your health. Read on to learn how sleep and exercise are more closely linked than you may think.
If your fitness goals include building muscle, you need deep sleep. After stage 2 and before REM, your body releases growth hormone, responsible for building tissue and repairing muscle. Without quality sleep, the results you’re after will be hard to come by, no matter how hard you train. Think of it like this: strength training breaks down muscle, and deep sleep helps build it back up.
Half the battle of exercise is eating the right foods—ones that’ll fuel your body and help you reach your goals. Proper hormone levels can help make sure that happens. Leptin is the hormone that signals when you’re full, while ghrelin is the hormone that signals when you’re hungry. A good night’s sleep keeps these important hormones in check, helping you avoid junk food cravings and the impulse to overeat.
Want to run further, lift heavier, jump higher? You know what we’re going to say: sleep more! In one Stanford University study, athletes who got extra sleep boosted their speed by 5% and their accuracy by 9%. Sleep gives you stamina, key if you want to go the extra mile. It also boosts your mood, making it easier to feel motivated and body-positive—two factors that take a workout from meh to oh yeah!
It’s not surprising that exercise makes you feel good. Drudge-busting hormones get secreted while you sweat, helping to clear your mind. But did you know sleep can do the same? A good night’s sleep helps boost your focus and drive, giving you the oomph you need to get and stay moving.
It’s tempting to think that the harder you work out, the better results you’ll see. But that’s only true if quality rest if part of the plan. In fact, over-exercising can actually reverse your progress. Also known as overtraining syndrome, symptoms of over-exercise include headaches, irritability and insomnia.
Stepping up your sleep
The same way sleep can improve your exercise regimen, exercise can improve your sleep. Regular exercise reduces stress, burns off extra energy and releases feel-good chemicals. Even for those with insomnia, consistent exercise has been shown to offset the stress response, making it easier settle into sleep.
So the next time you’re feel guilty about choosing an early bedtime over a workout, stop and give yourself some credit. While exercise is fantastic, rest is just as important. An equal balance of the two is what leads to a fit and fulfilled life, so snooze on and stay strong!