June 2017

 

WHERE SLEEP AND EXERCISE MEET

 

 

A tough workout calls for enough sleep; a decent night’s sleep requires exercise.  Fuel this loop with tips that will help you become stronger and healthier.

 

Scientists have known for a while that sleep and exercise have a symbiotic relationship, but that link is proving to be deeper and more essential than expected.  The functions of sleep are to conserve energy and to repair tissues in the body.  The more time you spend in the gym, the more shut-eye your body needs.  The results can be dramatic: After working out for four months, insomniacs can get a life-changing 85 more minutes of sleep a night, better than any drug can deliver (Sleep Medicine).  And the benefits go both ways: Deeper sleep ensures that your energy stores and muscle function are replenished.  Snoozing well the night after you exercise makes your muscles and tissues stronger and more resistant to fatigue and injury.  You can gain the full power of the sleep-sweat connection by following this four-point plan.

 

  • Have a high-protein bedtime snack.  People who drank a protein shake before hitting the sheets experienced a greater increase in muscle strength than those who didn’t.  That’s because in your body, protein foods break down into amino acids, which build up your muscles.  Since most of us only consume protein with meals, there typically aren’t many amino acids available for overnight muscle growth.  That means your body’s prime recovery hours aren’t being used to their full potential.  To get the most muscle-building powers while you sleep, try a protein-rich snack like Greek yogurt or a turkey roll-up.
  • Step up your game.  It takes just 20-30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a few days a week to improve your sleep.  But more seems to be better.  Increasing the amount of time you work out or the intensity of your routine will translate into even sounder sleep, since your body will require more time to reenergize and repair.  Dial it up slightly to get the bigger benefits.  For instance, if you’re a runner, tack a few extra miles onto one or two runs a week, or add one weekly session of sprints or hill repeats.
  • Turn in a little earlier.  When you get more quality z’s, your motivation to work out skyrockets.  Sleep affects people’s perception of how hard exercise is.  If you’re tired, your brain may try to convince you to save your depleted resources by hijacking your good intentions to visit the gym or by making your workout feel unusually difficult once you’re there.  All you have to do to regain your motivation to get to bed a little sooner, but not so early that you’ll have trouble drifting off.  Just 30 minutes should be enough to increase your drive to exercise the next day.
  • Go fast in the morning and heavy at night.  If possible, schedule your cardio work-outs first thing and strength training for after work.   This can help you spend more time in the deep sleep cycle: the kind that is most beneficial for your health.  For weight-lifting workouts, nighttime sessions improve sleep quality more than morning ones.  Both types of exercise help you sleep by reducing the amount of stress hormones your body releases.  But doing cardio too close to lights-out can backfire.  Your body temperature usually dips around bedtime, signaling to your system that it’s time to sleep.  A sweaty workout may disrupt that process by keeping you hotter for longer.  Resistance routines don’t cause that big spike in your body temperature, so even if you lift an hour or two before bed, you’ll still be able to nod off easily.

Mirel Ketchiff