The familiar relationship between sleep and fitness

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Everyone knows the gym is the paramount place to be when it comes to working out. However, there are still ways you can contribute to improving your fitness outside the gym. These could include what you drink and eat, but also, more importantly, how you sleep.


Sleep is very crucial and is a catalyst for all the exercise you do in the gym. Therefore, it would be best if you slept to make your exercises more efficient and productive.


One major benefit of exercising is to increase the body’s lean muscle mass, which develops endurance and others. However, this can only be achieved through enough rest and sleep. In other words, without sleep, exercise does not deliver those benefits.


Sleep gives your body time to recover, conserve energy, and repair and build up the muscles worked during exercise. When the body gets enough quality sleep, it produces growth hormones. Scientists believe that growth hormones are essential for athletic recovery.


According to data gathered by Ghana Demographic and Health Survey, 31.43% of Ghanaians are sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation is when the body gets less than six hours of sleep daily. It is a clinically recognized risk factor for poor health.


With such a large population not getting at least six or seven hours of sleep, sleep is a major problem.


This means that a considerable number of Ghanaians are also sabotaging their own fitness goals in the process.

Regular exercise can make you sleep better


Ever felt that immediate need for sleep immediately after a very engaging workout? One of the effects of exercises such as running or hiking is how tired it makes you feel. The tiredness creates the need for sleep in your body.


In one study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, individuals sleeping for just around six hours sleep for an extra 75 minutes per night after being involved in high-intensity exercises for a month. According to the study authors, the individuals slept better than any drug had helped them.


Regular exercise impacts the chemical components of your brain. Physical activity creates more adenosine in the brain. Adenosine is a substance in the brain that is responsible for how sleepy you feel. Drinking coffee makes you stay awake because the caffeine prevents your brain from releasing adenosine. Partaking in engagement workouts helps your body release more adenosine which makes you sleep a lot better at night.


Regularly exercising also helps you maintain your body’s internal clock, referred to as circadian rhythm. In addition, working out helps your body understand the schedule it’s on; specifically, exercising in the morning primes your body to sleep better at night.


Also, it is possible that exercising at night will help you sleep better. Although this depends on how intense the workout is and the timing.


According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, people involved in very intense workouts before bed were more efficient sleepers. According to the same research, they also fell asleep faster, slept more profoundly, and woke less during the night. It was also found that moderate-intensity workouts before bed also helped soothe pre-sleep anxiety.


However, you’re probably better off sticking to low-intensity workouts like yoga, pilates, or ballet, if you plan to sweat close to bedtime. These low-intensity exercises help speed up sleep because there is a decreased heart rate post-workout time.


Everyone is different when it comes to how stimulating a workout can be. For example, if you have trouble falling asleep, getting your heart rate up too close to bedtime may contribute to that, but for others, breaking a sweat at the end of the day may not affect their sleep.


Essentially, knowing the intensity of which exercises to partake in before bed depends on you and what is best for you.


Sleeping well improves workout


The better rested you are, the better your mind and body function, including working out at the gym. Research shows adequate sleep helps motivate people to stick to their exercise plans and work out the next day. The more sleep time people get, the more likely they are to complete their exercise plan.


Once you get enough sleep, you gain more drive and strength to maximize your workout. On the other hand, exercise becomes a lot harder to complete once you don’t get enough sleep. This is because sleep deprivation won’t affect your physical capabilities like cardiovascular and respiratory responses to exercise, performance capability, muscle strength, etc… Still, you will fatigue faster on less sleep, making it feel tougher to work out to your maximum capacity.


One night of not sleeping well can take a toll on your workout, such as endurance performance on a treadmill. Studies prove that a lack of quality sleep will likely make your usual routine exercises feel much tougher.


It’s important to note that sleeping for eight or more hours won’t suddenly turn you into a high-performing athlete in the gym. Likewise, extra sleep won’t necessarily make you faster, stronger, or improve your times or performance. Instead, lack of sleep has been linked to slower response times at the gym, similar to what your body demonstrates when you have sore muscles or over-train yourself.


Sleep should take priority in your fitness plan


Getting enough sleep and getting regular exercise is important, so how do you decide which one takes priority? You don’t have to make yourself choose between the two because both are key.


But if it’s not possible to find that perfect balance, you should always prioritize your sleep. You have to ensure that you always have a good amount of sleep daily.


If you manage to get at least seven hours of sleep the night before, then make sure you hit the gym. However, if you don’t get enough sleep for many days, you might want to make sure you’re well-rested before working out. Besides, if you visit the gym without a good amount of sleep, your workout will be subpar anyway.


Essentially, if you’re not getting 7-8 hours of sleep a day, you need to rethink your schedule so you can make sure you get enough sleep before you consider exercising.


You can’t have one without the other; sleep and fitness are essential to you to operate at your best level— not just in the gym, but in your everyday life, too.

How to ensure you sleep better


Pay close attention to what you eat and drink


If you want to sleep well, make sure not to go to bed feeling hungry or too full. Do not eat too much food especially close to your bedtime. Your body takes a while to digest heavy food and that may leave you feeling uncomfortable which will disrupt your sleep.


Also, drinking too much coffee and smoking could prevent you from feeling sleepy. Alcohol could make you feel sleepy immediately, but it can mess up sleep patterns in the long run.

Resolve your worries

Try to manage your worries or concerns before bedtime. First, you need to feel that you are in control of your troubles mentally. You can seek counseling if your problems are getting out of your control. Once you don’t have peace of mind, you’ll often find it difficult to sleep at night.


Stress management might help. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities, and delegating tasks. You can also try your hands out on yoga and meditation which have been scientifically proven to help reduce anxiety.


Maintain a consistent sleep schedule

A healthy adult is expected to sleep for at least seven hours a day. Due to the different level of commitments, most people find it difficult to meet the minimum amount of sleep expected daily.


The trick is to set an alarm not only for when you want to wake up, but also when you want to sleep. Sleeping and waking up at similar times each day helps your body sleep better. Try your best to stay within the sleep schedule so your body remains consistent with the sleep-wake cycle.


Create a restful environment

Ensure your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet, as these traits usually create an environment ideal for sleeping. Turn off the lights in your room before going to bed because the body finds it more difficult to sleep when it is exposed to light. Instead of using your mobile device which emits light, you can consider using sleeping shades, earplugs, or other devices to help make your sleeping environment suitable.


Doing activities such as taking a warm bath, reading or listening to soothing music helps put you in the mood to sleep peacefully.


Limit daytime naps

Long daytime naps can interfere with night-time sleep. Even if you want to nap during the day, make it short and not more than 30 minutes. Also, make sure not to nap too late in the day as that can affect your night sleep.


Include physical activity in your daily routine

Regular physical workouts can help you sleep better at night. However, try not to workout too close to your sleep time just to give your body some time to readjust to sleep mode.


It also helps when you spend a considerable amount of time outside in the sun every day as it helps keep your body relaxed.




Yaya, Sanni et al. “Alcohol consumption and sleep deprivation among Ghanaian adults: Ghana Demographic and Health Survey.” PeerJ vol. 6 e5750. 9 Oct. 2018, doi:10.7717/peerj.5750


Passos, Giselle S et al. “Effect of acute physical exercise on patients with chronic primary insomnia.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine vol. 6,3 (2010): 270-5.


Oda, Shiro, and Kazuki Shirakawa. “Sleep onset is disrupted following pre-sleep exercise that causes large physiological excitement at bedtime.” European journal of applied physiology vol. 114,9 (2014): 1789-99. doi:10.1007/s00421-014-2873-2


Baron, Kelly Glazer et al. “Exercise to improve sleep in insomnia: exploration of the bidirectional effects.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine vol. 9,8 819-24. 15 Aug. 2013, doi:10.5664/jcsm.2930


Fullagar, Hugh H K et al. “Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 45,2 (2015): 161-86. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0260-0