When you’re working on your wellness, there are so many things to consider. But if you want the best possible results, two things reign above all else — sleep and exercise. While both of these facets are independently critical to good health, they’re surprisingly reliant on one another. When one is in a good place, the other is likely to be as well. In this article, we’ll explore exactly how interwoven these two things are to help you live your life to its fullest.
Oh, and there’s a bonus: We’ll also help you justify upgrading your sleep and fitness style, whether you’ve had your eye on a fancy new piece of gym equipment or some new quality bedding!
Sleep Is Key to Good Mental Health
After a night of tossing and turning, it can feel next to impossible to muster up the vigor to get to the gym. And it’s not just the energy depletion, either. Sleep helps the brain hit “reset” so it’s able to focus, regulate emotions and manage stress in the morning and throughout the day. If you’re feeling sad, anxious or stressed, you’re not likely to feel up for a workout. When you’re well-rested, though, you’ll be much more enthused about the idea.
Tip: If you have trouble calming the mind before bedtime, try snuggling up with weighted blankets for sleep. These provide gentle pressure therapy that releases calming hormones to help you get to sleep faster.
Sleep Facilitates Muscle Recovery and Growth
In addition to helping you crush it in a positive mental state, sleep also has a measurable benefit on your physical state, which is clutch at the gym. Specifically, when you sleep, your body releases hormones and facilitates protein synthesis, which are crucial to helping it recover after a hard-hitting workout as well as grow bigger, stronger muscles. In fact, studies have found that people who get more sleep are more likely to lose body fat and gain muscle than people who don’t stick to a healthy sleep schedule.
Sleep Replenishes Energy Storage
Another thing to be aware of is that, without quality sleep, you won’t have the energy reserves to push yourself further and faster with every workout. While researchers still aren’t 100 percent certain how sleep facilitates energy, new studies have shown that the brain’s source of stored energy and glycogen are limited and that they’re only able to be replenished during sleep.
This means that throughout the day — as you concentrate, exercise and work through complex emotions — your energy levels are depleting and they won’t be refilled until after you get some sleep. Naturally, you won’t feel up for that extra rep if you’re feeling zapped of energy, which is why logging your nightly Zzzs is so important for serious athletes and casual gym-goers alike.
Fitness Combats Anxiety, Which Equals Better Sleep
So now that we have a general idea of how sleep affects fitness, let’s look at how fitness affects sleep. One of the clearest correlations between regular exercise and healthy sleep patterns is its effect on mental health. According to Mayo Clinic, exercise can ease symptoms of both depression and anxiety in direct ways, like releasing feel-good endorphins (also known as “runner’s high”) and distracting you from negative feelings for a period of time.
Working out can also have less obvious benefits, including giving you more self-confidence and helping you cope with challenging life events in healthier ways. All of these things come together to help you get into and stay into a more positive, healthy headspace, which is crucial to helping you fall asleep and stay asleep every night.
Exercise Helps You Sleep Better, Plain and Simple
There is also evidence to suggest that the body sleeps better after exercise. Again, researchers say they aren’t able to explain exactly why exercise improves sleep, but we have plenty of concrete evidence showing that it does. According to Johns Hopkins, one theory is that moderate aerobic exercise increases “slow wave sleep” — that’s the deep, restorative level of sleep required to restore the brain — which helps stabilize mood and facilitate key processes in the body.
Exercise Prevents Daytime Fatigue
Have you ever noticed that, even if you’re feeling somewhat sluggish, a midday workout can give you a massive boost of energy? If you’re the kind of person who tends to feel fatigued and tired throughout the day, you may be able to stave off your afternoon nap with a sweat session. Cutting out daytime naps can help improve general sleep quality while also keeping you on a set schedule so you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Sure, regular exercise and sleep are essential, but there’s a caveat or two you should consider before jumping into your new sleep-exercise cycle. Note that while exercise can cause the body to immediately feel more tired and happy, you need to space the two activities out in order to give your body time to wind down from the excitement of physical activity and get back to an ideal temperature for sleep. While everyone is different, most people find that it’s best to work out at least two hours before going to bed.
A Balanced Relationship for Good Health
As you can see, sleep and exercise have a codependent relationship that can bolster one another for the better. If you’ve been struggling to get to sleep at night or are finding yourself feeling unmotivated when it’s time to work out, it may be time to look into some healthy ways to boost your quality of sleep. The results will have a ripple effect, improving every single element of your life!