March has been designated National Sleep Awareness Month. Everybody enjoys sleep, but few realize just how important sleep can be for a healthy body.
It’s safe to say that the fundamental ingredient for a healthy lifestyle is exercise. But sleep is also an important component for weight loss and better overall fitness. Exercise also helps reduce insomnia, proving that sleep and exercise have a symbiotic relationship.
According to Muscle and Fitness magazine, “You don’t grow in the gym. You grow while you recover.”
“You also get faster, leaner and stronger while you recover, so it stands to reason that you should be making this a priority,” Muscle and Fitness says. “But recovery isn’t simply a matter of post-workout protein and waxy maize – it’s a matter of rest. Or, more specifically, sleep.”
Beyond muscle recovery, sleep also helps with fat loss. Getting eight hours of sleep at night helps you lower the cortisol levels in your blood, while lack of sleep raises your cortisol levels. Higher levels of cortisol lead to a lower metabolism. Breaking protein down into glucose is stimulated by cortisol. If you have too much glucose in your body, it will get stored as fat. On top of this, cortisol interferes with your body’s ability to build muscle mass. If you are trying to lose weight, you will want to make sure that you have low cortisol levels in your blood. Getting enough sleep helps you do just that.
Exercise can also better one’s sleep regimen. Difficulties in sleeping can be cured with a steady diet of exercise.
“There has been more and more research in the last decade showing exercise can reduce insomnia,” Rush University clinical psychologist Kelly Glazer Baron said. “In one study we did, for example, older women suffering from insomnia said their sleep improved from poor to good when they exercised. They had more energy and were less depressed.”
“There are more solid studies recently that looked at people clinically diagnosed with insomnia disorder, rather than self-described poor sleepers,” agreed the University of Pittsburgh’s Christopher Kline, who studies sleep through the lens of sports medicine. “The results show exercise improves both self-reported and objective measures of sleep quality, such as what’s measured in a clinical sleep lab.”
After the improvement in insomnia and fitness, sleep can also improve energy levels, which allows people who live an active lifestyle go faster and longer. Sleep deprivation can decrease your energy levels, which makes it harder for you to get a good workout. A May 2003 study published in the “European Journal of Applied Physiology” examined the energy levels of men who had a normal night’s sleep and men who did not sleep. The men who did not sleep showed lower maximum and average energy levels.
Sleep is a key element of an active lifestyle and there’s no better time to remember this than in the month of March.