Maximize Your Sleep to Improve Your Workouts

Most gym-goers spend a lot of time thinking about what they are doing during the hour of the day that they are working out. That’s all good and well, but if they really want to improve their performance, they need to all give attention to the few years that they are - or are not - sleeping each day.

In this article, we discover why sleep is so crucial to your workout success. We’ll also provide you with 6 sleep hacks to help you maximize your sleep to improve your workouts.

The first phase of sleep is known as non-REM or non-Dream sleep. This is shallow sleep during which your brain waves perform in rapid, irregular patterns. Your muscles become totally relaxed and your metabolism slows further as more melatonin is released. You will go through this first stage several times during the course of the evening. Each one will last between 30 seconds and seven minutes.

You now cruise straight into phase two, which has been called true sleep. About 20% of your night will be spent in this stage. It is characterized by enlarged brain waves as your mind produces fragmented ideas and visuals. Yet you are in deep sleep and have no awareness of your surroundings.

Phases three and four are known as the delta zone. You are moving from deeper into the deepest sleep. During this phase the majority of the blood coursing around your body is being directed to your muscles. Your brain produces enlarged, slow waves. You are now in the power stage of sleep. Someone trying to wake you would have the most difficulty during stage four sleep. That’s because it’s during this phase that your body is replenishing, recovering and repairing itself. Ideally you will spend about 50% of the night in stage four sleep.

About two hours into your slumber your eyes will start to quiver rapidly backwards and forwards. You are entering what scientists have dubbed Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. Researchers have discovered that during a good night’s sleep you will move in and out of the REM stage several times. It is during REM sleep that you dream, as more blood is redirected to your brain. In fact, during REM your brain is acting almost as if you were awake.

Throughout the night, you are constantly moving through the 5 phases of sleep – the four non-REM stages and REM – such that every 90 minutes you are in REM sleep. Each time you enter REM, however, the phase lasts longer.

After seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, you will go through six or seven complete sleep cycles. You will wake up refreshed, invigorated and ready to seize the coming day.

It should be clear from the above that several portions of broken sleep do not add up to the same amount of uninterrupted sleep. If you are waking up several times during the night, you may not be giving yourself enough time to reach stage four non-REM or REM sleep. Then, when – and if – you drift back to sleep again you start back at Phase One again. That’s why people who suffer from broken sleep can suffer from fatigue, apathy, and depression the next day.

When you are regularly denied the cyclical 5 phases of sleep you develop what is called sleep debt. Sleep debt prevents you from getting the amount of REM sleep that you need. REM sleep is vital for mental health. Bodily repair takes place during Stage 4 of non-REM sleep. Without these vital repair stages, you will suffer from:

  • Reduced attention span
  • Memory and vocabulary loss
  • Diminished analytical thinking ability
  • Diminished creativity
  • Diminished sense of humor and social skills
  • Diminished communication and decision skills
  • Diminished resistance to viruses
  • Reduced work productivity
  • Enhanced risk-taking
  • Increased likelihood of heart attack
  • Increased susceptibility to diabetes
  • Increased susceptibility to cold and flu
  • Increased irritability
  • Fat gain
  • General lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of interest in what is going on around you

That is quite an ominous list. However, many people who are accustomed to getting by on a minimum amount of sleep are not even aware of many of these effects. Even though constant sleep shortage may diminish their mental faculties – specifically their alertness and reaction time – they operate under the mistaken impression that they haven’t been affected at all.

A workout you should try if you didn’t sleep well the night prior:

Sleep deprivation will negatively affect your workouts. You will be less switched on mentally, so that your reactions will be slower. As a result, your motor neurons will not fire as efficiently. You will be less coordinated, which will increase your risk of injury. That can make the gym, with all that heavy weight round, a dangerous place!

Share it

According to a 2007 study, sleep deprivation will also lead to reduced glucose uptake by the body’s muscle cells. That means that you will have less energy to fuel your training.

Another study pinpointed the non-dream REM stage of sleep as being critical to protein synthesis and muscle repair. Interrupted sleep will seriously impair that process.

  • Develop a nighttime routine where you go to bed, and get up at the same time every day.
  • Invest in quality bedroom hardware. Upgrade your mattress, bed base, and pillow to more ergonomically enhanced versions.
  • Keep the bedroom as dark and quiet as possible. Try to maintain an ideal temperature of between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5-19.4 degrees Celsius).
  • Make the bedroom a tech-free zone (that includes your phone!).
  • Don’t drink coffee after 4 pm.
  • Start winding down for bed an hour ahead of time; read a book, take a warm bath and drink some herbal tea.
Share it

Weekly knowledge exclusively for people who want to improve their health, fitness and mindset.

First name